Group survives crash landing in Towner County

BOTTINEAU A group of three returning home to Bottineau by private plane after celebrating Thanksgiving in International Falls, Minn., were forced to crash into a slough in Towner County at about 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 when dense fog turned their plane into an ice box.

All were seriously injured, according to a preliminary investigative report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.

First, after the frost, the plane began to lose altitude, according to an investigative report from the North Dakota Highway Patrol. The plane got so low that it clipped a grouping of trees and lost its wings.

While the report issued by the NTSB said the crash occurred in Rock Lake, the Highway Patrol said it actually took place about six miles north of there near the intersection of Towner County Road 4819 and 101st Street Northeast.

According to the NTSB report, the pilot, Steve Scheflo, Bottineau, reported entering instrument meteorological conditions as the plane approached Rolla. That condition means that the weather was so bad outside, due to the dense fog, that Scheflo had to rely primarily on his instrument panel to fly the plane to his destination rather than rely on visible information.

Because it was dark, Scheflo used a flashlight to see out onto one of the wings “where he saw ‘frost’ building on the gas cap” before things got worse and the plane began to lose altitude. According to the report, Scheflo “never saw the trees or ground before the impact.”

Upon impact the wings, the landing gear, and one of the horizontal stabilizers had separated from the fuselage of the plane, a Piper model PA 28-181.

No information was readily available on the extent or nature of the injuries suffered by Scheflo and his two passengers, Dianne Scheflo and Robert Abrahamson.