One year after plane crashes into the Missouri River

Published: Jul. 17, 2019 at 6:16 PM CDT
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It's been one year since a plane crashed in the middle of the Missouri River near Ft. Rice.

The pilot, who was the only person on board, was killed. That day, Morton County officials responded to a first of its kind situation for them, retrieving a plane from the water.

The call for an airplane in the water came in before 3 p.m. on July 17, 2018, sending Morton and Emmons County deputies to a spot near Ft. Rice on the Missouri River.

“It went into the water but you don't know where, you don't know how deep, you don't know if it's totally submerged, if part of it was sticking out,” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said.

Kirchmeier says Emmons County deputies were able to retrieve the body of the 35-year-old pilot Daniel Miller. An autopsy would show he died of blunt chest injuries. Miller had been taking aerial photos of farms and ranches in the area, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The next day, a dive team from the Sheriff's Office headed out to try and retrieve the plane. Kirchemier says they've pulled vehicles out of the water before, but never a plane.

“We wanted to make sure we get the airbags placed right so we wouldn't have other issues like losing it on the way into shore and that type of thing,” Kirchmeier said.

Using those airbags, the plane was taken to shore and handed over to the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration for investigation. Kirchmeier says they did have to replace one of the airbags that pulled apart that day, but overall the mission was successful.

“The training is very important especially with the airbags, and we don't get a lot of use with it, but when we do, they do come in very handy,” Kirchmeier said.

A preliminary report from the NTSB shows there was no mechanical failure before the plane hit the water. A final report on the accident hasn't been released yet.