Many on the UND campus are in shock, students have been offered counseling and flight training has been shut down temporarily after a student died when the university plane he was piloting crashed into a field Monday evening near Buxton.
The student has been identified as 19-year-old sophomore John Hauser.
According to a statement from UND President Andrew Armacost, Hauser was a student majoring in commercial aviation from Chicago.
The UND plane crashed in a field southeast of Buxton, or about 28 miles south of Grand Forks.
Preliminary information indicates the plane crashed around 7:25 p.m., according to Keith Holloway with the National Transportation Safety Board, though he said that estimate may change.
According to Eva Ngai, with the Federal Aviation Administration, an alert notice was issued for the plane around 8 p.m. Alert notices are issued when the FAA loses contact with a plane. Previously, the NDHP reported the crash occurred at 8:30 p.m.
The plane was dispatched for flight by UND at 6:19 p.m., Holloway said, in an emailed statement.
The crash is being investigated by the NDHP, NTSB and FAA, with the assistance of the Traill County Sheriff’s Office. The Grand Forks and UND police departments also are investigating.
What exactly caused the crash is still unclear. However, WDAY News reported Tuesday evening that investigators are looking into whether it was intentional.
Around the same time air traffic control lost contact with the plane, a 911 call was made in Grand Forks about a suicidal person. Due to the investigation it is not being released who called 911 or why they thought the pilot may have been suicidal.
According to the FAA, Hauser took off in a single-engine plane from the Grand Forks airport, headed to the Fargo airport. About 20 minutes into the flight he turned around for an unknown reason and the plane began to drop rapidly.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it is too early to confirm if the crash was intentional.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to John’s family, friends, classmates, and fraternity brothers,” Armacost said. “They are all in our thoughts and prayers.”
Armacost said Hauser’s death affects the entire UND campus, and said the university is offering support to students who would like counseling.
According to Armacost’s statement, University Counseling Center staff members are available for crisis sessions any time Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Representatives from the Counseling Center will be available in room 207 of Ryan Hall for the remainder of this week for anyone who would like to talk with them. People can call 701-777-2127 to schedule an appointment. University Counseling Center will accommodate students’ needs for service on a case by case need. After hours support is available through 24/7 First Link, which can be reached by dialing 211 or calling 701-235-7335.
Armacost said faculty and staff can consult UND’s Employee Assistance Program found online at thevillagefamily.org, or by calling 1-800-627-8220.
“This is a tragic time for John’s family and his friends,” Armacost said, urging the campus community "to come together to support one another.”
Holloway said an NTSB investigator is expected to be on the scene on Tuesday, and that a preliminary report could be ready in 10 days. However, the NTSB does not determine the cause of a crash in the early stages of the investigation, which Holloway said can take up to two years to complete.
UND spokesman David Dodds said UND administrators are not willing to speculate how the crash occurred. Dodds said people at UND will wait for reports from the investigating entities.
Conrad Beard, a junior and aviation student, said he did not know Hauser, but said the situation led to a “tough time” on campus.
“I was definitely sad to hear (it),” Beard said.
According to Dodds, Hauser was flying a Piper Archer, PA 28-181, on an authorized single-engine solo night flight on Monday evening. Dodds also said the crash is the first fatal accident in a UND aircraft since fall of 2007, when a bird strike caused a crash that killed two people.
In 2000, a UND flight instructor died in a crash near the Rapid City Regional Airport. The crash was suspected to be a suicide by authorities due to his last radio message at the Rapid City airport. He had been charged the day before with his second drunken driving offense in two and a half years, according to Herald archives.
In response to the crash and death of Hauser, UND has temporarily halted all flight training activities.
According to an email sent to people affiliated with UND Aerospace, Robert Kraus, dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, stopped all flight activity for Tuesday in a “safety stand down.” The email informed people of the death of the student, and asked that people not speculate about what caused the crash.
Said Kraus, via the email: "It is with great sadness that I inform you of an aircraft accident on Monday evening which resulted in the death of one of our students on a solo flight. I am placing all UND Aerospace flight training activities (aircraft, ATD, ground briefings) at Grand Forks on a safety stand down for Tuesday, October 19, 2021. Out of respect for the family we stress that you should not speculate about this event and let the investigation take its course.
"There are many factors associated with an event like this and everyone has their own way of processing feelings and emotions. Representatives from the University Counseling Center will be available in Ryan Hall room 207 for the remainder of this week for anyone who would like to talk with them. They are also available by phone at 701-777-7127.”