NTSB report: Airplane flying at 'low altitude' when hit power lines, crashed into river

The small airplane that crashed into the Mississippi River near Ramsey, Minnesota earlier this month was flying below the tree line when it hit power lines and went into the water, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Cessena 172M airplane was destroyed when it collided with power lines that crossed the Mississippi River on at 5:34 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13 The pilot, Chad Rygwall of Princeton, and his wife, Jill, were both killed in the crash.

MORE: Community grapples with loss of Princeton couple in plane crash

According to the report, the flight was not operating on a flight plan. Video footage taken from the ground showed the airplane flying northwest at a low altitude along the river. The plane appeared to be near “treetop level.” 

The airplane made a shallow left turn to follow a bend in the river about 200 yards east of the accident site, the report said. Four sets of power lines extend horizontally across the river approximately 200 yards beyond the bend.

Witnesses reported seeing the airplane strike the power lines as it was flying along the river.

“Several witnesses noted that the airplane was below the level of the trees, which lines both sides of the river,” according to the report. “One witness initially thought that the pilot intended to fly under the power lines due to the low altitude of the airplane.”

The power lines are equipped with red aerial marker balls, according to the report.

The NTSB is continuing to investigate the crash.