Ellendale, MN Helicopter Crash, Jan 1986


Ellendale, Minn. (UPI) -- Federal investigators today examined the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in thick fog while carrying an ABC News crew to cover the Geo. A. Hormel & Co. meat-packers strike, killing the two ABC employees and the pilot.
Federal officials said they also planned to interview authorities to determine the cause of Tuesday's crash. The helicopter had to fly through thick fog and freezing drizzle in its journey from St. Paul to Austin.
An ABC spokesman in New York identified the two employees as correspondent JOE SPENCER
and producer MARK McDONOUGH, both 31 and based in Chicago.
The pilot, CURTIS MARK HAUGEN, 34, of Marina on St. Croix, chose to fly under a low-cloud cover instead of following an advised flight plan above the clouds, said Mort Edelstein, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Chicago. HAUGEN was a 10-year veteran pilot.
"He said he would fly under the cloud cover. That's his prerogative," Edelstein said. "We lost contact with him at 4:37 a.m. EST because he was too low for radar. At 8:30 a.m., KSTP (a local ABC affiliate) called the flight service station and said the plane was overdue. The FAA then launched a rescue."
The pilot of a small plane who took off earlier had recommended the helicopter fly above the low-cloud cover. But the helicopter pilot "refused" to take the high route, Edelstein said.
"We tell him what's the safest way to go. We tell him what the weather conditions are. I assume he's a veteran pilot. Therefore, he could fly above, below or wherever he wants," Edelstein said.
Roone Arledge, president of ABC News in New York, expressed the network's condolences to the victims' families. The two had each worked for ABC about three years.
"JOE SPENCER and MARK McDONOUGH were two young and talented journalists who lost their lives doing their work," Arledge said. "All who knew them, both professionally and personally, had great affection and respect for the way they lived and what they gave to their profession."
McDONOUGH'S wife is pregnant, Edelstein said.
The wreckage of the helicopter, leased by Odyssey Helicopter Service in White Bear Lake, was found in a farm field shortly before Tuesday about 80 miles south of Minneapolis, said Col. Roger Ledding of the Minnesota State Highway Patrol.
Discovery of the wreckage was delayed by the heavy fog, which prevented authorities from using planes to look for the missing helicopter. Laurel Richards, a farmer, called Steele County authorities to report the crash on his land just east of Interstate 35.
A Freeborn County sheriff's deputy said there was
"not much left" of the helicopter.

Logansport Pharos Tribune Indiana 1986-01-22