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Friends mourn Wyoming men killed in Saturday plane crash near Thief River Falls

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Photo by Scott Cook / WDAZ. 2 / 2

THIEF RIVER FALLS — Employees of Mountain West Motors Inc. in Rawlins, Wyo., gathered Saturday afternoon at the outdoor sports store to mourn the loss of their co-workers and friends.

Three men were killed shortly before 8 a.m. when their small Cessna 182 airplane crashed in a stubble wheat field outside Thief River Falls.

The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office identified the men as Moy Wing, 69, Brian Duke, 27, and Zach Ostertag, 26, all of Rawlins.

Social media indicated both Duke and Ostertag were mechanics at Mountain West, but the Herald was unable to verify if Wing also was employed there.

“We’re a small town in Wyoming, and everybody’s devastated right now,” said a Mountain West employee who spoke briefly to the Herald.  “We’re just all finding out. It just happened this morning. We’re honestly all in shock right now.”

A Facebook post from Ostertag dated Wednesday announced “3 more days, I’m ready to go home.” He replied to a friend’s post that he was training for “Arctic Cat and Textron snow and dirt machines.”

Arctic Cat Inc., a major manufacturer of snowmobiles, ATVs and other off-road vehicles, is located in Thief River Falls.

The scene

The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release it received a 911 call shortly before 8 a.m. that a plane was down near the intersection of Center Avenue Northeast and 130th Street Northeast, an area southwest of town and about 2½ miles west of the Thief River Falls Regional Airport.

Emergency responders found the three men dead at the scene, the news release said.

A stretch of gravel road at 130th Street was blocked off yet Saturday afternoon as about a half-dozen uniformed officers and others continued to investigate the scene. From a distance, wreckage appeared to cross the roadway with debris scattered about 100 yards into the field.

Elizabeth Cory, a public affairs spokeswoman with the Federal Aviation Administration, said the crash is being investigated by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board. No updates would be available until next week, she said, adding that investigations can take several months to more than a year to complete.

The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, Thief River Falls Police Department, St. Hilaire Fire and First Responders, Thief River Falls Area Ambulance, Thief River Falls Fire Department and Minnesota State Patrol all responded to the crash.

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