Relative, Barron Co. sheriff remember Chetek teen involved in fa - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Relative, Barron Co. sheriff remember Chetek teen involved in fatal plane crash

Updated:
Owen Knutson is seen in this photo during a flight in mid-May, Courtesy: BanksPhotos.com Owen Knutson is seen in this photo during a flight in mid-May, Courtesy: BanksPhotos.com
Owen Knutson seen flying a private plane in a previous flight; Courtesy: BanksPhotos.com Owen Knutson seen flying a private plane in a previous flight; Courtesy: BanksPhotos.com
Dennis Knutson remembers Owen Knutson Dennis Knutson remembers Owen Knutson

Chetek (WQOW) - After what the Barron County Sheriff calls a "trying week", more tragedy has occurred for the communities of Cameron and Chetek: a fatal plane crash.

One teen has died and another is in the hospital in serious condition. This comes on the heels of a deadly tornado that swept through northwestern Wisconsin last Tuesday.

17-year-old Owen Knutson, who died in Wednesday's plane crash, came from a long line of pilots. Family members told News 18 both his father and his grandfather flew for commercial airlines, but that family tradition was cut tragically short Wednesday night.

RELATED: Funeral services set for Chetek teen killed in plane crash

"Everybody knows that they're a flying family,” said Dennis Knutson, who is a cousin of Owen's grandfather. Dennis said he first heard the news of Owen's passing on Facebook.

"I saw a posting from somebody I didn't know that basically said, 'Rest in peace, Owen Knutson',” Dennis said. “Within minutes, there were postings coming from all directions."

Officials said Owen was flying a small two-seater plane on Wednesday when it went down in the Red Cedar River, just south of Chetek.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said the cause of the crash is still under investigation. "I don't know. I don't know what happened. I just don't know,” he said.

But, Dennis said he does know Owen was an experienced, licensed pilot. "Knowing what kind of kid he is, and how responsible he is, my feeling is it was almost certainly the mechanical failure,” Dennis said.

Owen's passenger, 18 -year-old Hunter Gillett, survived the crash. Authorities said Gillett was taken to an area hospital in critical condition on Wednesday night and upgraded to serious condition Thursday afternoon.

Dennis said Gillett wasn't the first friend to fly with Owen, who was known for delivering people in style. "Three of his classmates' parents gave their sons permission to fly with him to the state tournament in March,” Dennis said. “You know, what parents would let their kids do that unless they trust – trust this young man?”

Dennis told News 18 Owen comes from a tight-knit family, though he knows the entire community will be grieving Owen's loss. "Sometimes, you know, you say 'Gee, I wish I could have been like that kid. I wish I could have been like him'," Dennis said.

"A lot of our first responders knew the family. I would guess all of our first responders knew the family,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said. He said his crews are still reeling from the deadly tornado that passed through the city a week before. "It was a trying week, and it ended with even more tragedy. So hopefully, the sun came out today, and we'll go with a new day,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said.

Owen attended Chetek-Weyerhaeuser High School. Gillett was scheduled to graduate Friday from Cameron High School. The districts are expected to put out their own press releases about the accident soon.


Posted on May 25, 2017:

Chetek (WQOW) - Authorities have released the names of the two teens involved in an overnight fatal plane crash.

According to Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, they received a report of a plane wreckage in the Red Cedar River, south of Chetek about three miles. Fitzgerald said two teens were pulled from the water.

Police said 18-year-old Hunter Gillett, from Cameron, was taken by ambulance to an Eau Claire hospital and later flown to Rochester in critical condition. As of Thursday late afternoon, a spokesperson with Mayo Clinic Health in Rochester told News 18 Gillett's condition has been upgraded to serious condition.

Police said 17-year-old Owen Knutson, from Chetek, was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities said Knutson was the pilot of the single engine plane and took off from a private air strip on the Knutson Property, south of Chetek.

News 18 spoke with Sheriff Fitzgerald on Thursday morning. He said Gillett is a student at Cameron High School and Knutson was a student at Chetek-Weyerhaeuser High/Middle School.

Fitzgerald is asking everyone to keep the the families and students of the Chetek and Cameron school districts in your prayers.


Posted on May 24, 2017 (10:08 p.m.):

Chetek (WQOW) - One teen is dead after a Barron County plane crash Wednesday night. 

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald says it happened south of County Road I near 22 1/2 Street around 6:30 p.m.

Sheriff Fitzgerald has confirmed that the two passenger plane was found in the Red Cedar River. Two teens were found there as well. One was killed in the crash, the other was taken to a hospital in critical condition. 

Fitzgerald says they planned to work at the scene overnight trying to recover the plane.

This is a developing story. Stay with News 18 for the very latest on air and online.


Chetek (WQOW) -- Crews in Barron County are still searching for a plane that crashed near Chetek, killing one passenger.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said the plane is believed to have crashed near the Red Cedar River south of Chetek. Both passengers were teenagers and were accounted for: one has died, the other is listed in critical condition.

Sheriff Fitzgerald tells News 18 the only access to where they believe the plane crashed is by boat. As of 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, crews were loading in boats at the public docks near 6th Avenue and traveling down stream, roughly six miles, in search of the plane.

This is a developing story. Stay with News 18 for the very latest on air and online.


Posted on May 24, 2017:

Chetek (WQOW) --
News 18 has learned that a plane has crashed in Barron County, killing at least one passenger.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald confirmed to News 18 the crash happened south of County Highway I near the Red Cedar River south of Chetek. The two passengers are believed to be teenagers. Authorities said one person has died and the other is in critical condition.

This is a developing story. News 18 has a reporter headed to the scene and will provide updates as they become available.

Powered by Frankly