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Early plane crash report says passengers feared turbulence

THIEF RIVER FALLS -- A preliminary report from a federal agency indicates the passengers killed in a plane crash Saturday 3 miles from the Thief River Falls airport were expecting a bumpy ride.

The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board states there were overcast skies and low clouds when a Cessna TR182 aircraft with three occupants bound for Rawlins, Wyo., crashed Sept. 23.

Pilot Moy Wing, 69, Brian Duke, 27, and Zach Ostertag, 26, all of Rawlins, died when their small plane crashed in a stubble wheat field at about 7:45 a.m. Saturday.

The men worked for Mountain West Motors Inc. in Rawlins. Mountain West owner Dean Parker told the Herald the men were returning home after spending a week in Thief River Falls, where mechanics Duke and Ostertag completed training to work on Arctic Cat machines. Wing, Mountain West's 27-year finance manager, was their pilot.

Parker said Wing was an experienced pilot who had his license since the 1970s.

The report states Wing had flown the men to Thief River Falls on Sept. 17, and returned to Rawlins the same day. He flew into Thief River Falls on Sept. 22,  and described the trip in to witnesses as “terrible” because cloud conditions forced him to fly 1,500 feet above ground level.

A hotel employee who spoke to the men the morning of the crash said the pilot was checking weather conditions and planning the flight at about 5:30 a.m., according to the report. The employee told investigators the passengers skipped breakfast and were concerned about expected turbulence during the flight.

A witness who was about a mile southwest of the crash told investigators he could hear the engine “screaming” before hearing an impact.

The pilot did not file a flight plan, according to the report. When Wing flew into Thief River Falls on Sept. 17, he asked the local fixed-base operator for a local area sectional chart, according to the preliminary report.

All information in preliminary reports is considered subject to change. A final report could be several weeks away.