UPDATE: Wife of Ottertail man killed in plane crash says he left behind six kids
PARKERS PRAIRIE, Minn. - A rural Parkers Prairie man heard what sounded like a crop-dusting plane with engine trouble about 6:25 p.m. Wednesday, followed by a loud crash.
When Gayle Snook went out to investigate, he discovered the wreckage of a plane in some trees about 90 yards from his home.
Otter Tail County sheriff's officials on Thursday identified the victim as 41-year-old Adam Menze of Ottertail. He was alone in the plane, authorities said.
"He was a man with an amazing faith, and he was just an all-around amazing man," said his wife, Rhonda Menze, adding that her husband made a positive impression on everyone he met.
Spokesman Tony Molinaro, of the Federal Aviation Administration Great Lakes Region, which is based in Chicago, said the plane went down about five miles north of Parkers Prairie.
Snook said after hearing the loud crash, he found debris on his driveway. He asked his father, who lives nearby, whether something had fallen off his truck.
When his dad said no, Snook checked out the area near his home.
Snook said it appeared the plane had touched down and possibly bounced from a nearby snowy field about 60 yards from his house.
"I was wondering if he (the pilot) wasn't trying to get onto the road because he was having problems with the plane, mechanical problems, but I don't know," said Snook, who reported the badly damaged single-engine propeller plane to the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office.
Rhonda Menze said her husband, who owns a mechanical engineering consulting company, was flying home from a business trip to Illinois when the crash happened. She said he started flying in 1992 and they have a grass airstrip near their home, which is kept plowed in the winter.
The Menzes have six children, ages 10 to 4 months.
"He will be dearly missed," she said.
A fund for the children's education - called "The Menze Kids Fund" - has been set up at First National Bank of Henning, Ottertail and Battle Lake.
Molinaro said there was no fire associated with the crash.
Brad Hopkins, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, said weather was likely not a factor in the crash. The temperature was around 12 degrees.
The incident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA.
Forum reporter Wendy Reuer contributed to this report.