October 06, 2017 09:03 AM
Family members confirm that 77-year-old Phil Schaffer of Richfield was the pilot killed when his plane crashed in an Eden Prairie church parking lot Wednesday morning.
On Friday, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Schaffer had died as a result of "multiple blunt force injuries."
Schaffer had reported a fire on the single-engine plane before it crashed. The distress call came through shortly after he took off from Flying Cloud Airport.
Witnesses reported a small, white aircraft "going into a circle" before crashing, Eden Prairie police lieutenant Bill Wyffels said Wednesday.
"It is fortunate that it didn’t hit a building," Wyffels said. "It did land in the parking lot. There were no cars in close proximity that it even damaged."
The Federal Aviation Association and National Transportation and Safety Board are investigating.
The NTSB identified the plane as an "Experimental Fisher Horizon II."
Pastor Bill Predovich of Resurrection Life Church said his wife Sharon, also a pastor, was inside her office at the church and witnessed the crash.
"All of a sudden we heard this loud noise and we looked out and there was an explosion right outside my window here," Predovich said. "We went out and searched all along here, and down by the woods. But you couldn't get near the fire. It was too big.
"We looked to see if there was anyone we could help, but didn't see anybody."
Bill Predovish said the church had to cancel Wednesday night's service and kids' activities because the investigation is still active.
Predovich said Eden Prairie police used one of the church's chaplains to inform the pilot's family of his death, making Wednesday a difficult and emotional day.
Dave Lemna works across the street from the church at Gunnar Electric. He was outside loading supplies into his pickup truck when he spotted the airplane overhead.
"It had a higher, whining pitch noise than I’m used to hearing from planes," Lemna said. "It circled and banked and I assumed it was going back to the airport. I turned my back to shut the shed. And as I did that, the noise seemed to cease. Within a couple of seconds there was a loud explosion.
"I turned around and looked straight across. From there, I could see the black smoke and flames coming up from the building."
Aerial video shows dark marks on the pavement where the plane slid.
"There (were) people from the church out around the wreckage, trying to help if they could," Lemna said. "One of them had a fire extinguisher and was trying to put the flames out."
Police say no one else was injured, and there is no property damage from the crash. Predovich also confirmed there was no damage to the church.
Theresa Malloy, Kirsten Swanson and Jessica Miles
Updated: October 06, 2017 09:03 AM
Created: October 04, 2017 11:24 AM
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