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Alaska men survive plane crash Wednesday night

This Cessna 185 was heavily damaged in an emergency landing Wednesday evening in a hayfield owned by David and Karin Meyer in the town of Clifton. Submitted photo courtesy of Karin Meyer1 / 4
Several neighbors to the crash site came out to witness the scene late Wednesday night. From left are: Elaine Bauman, Tanya and Sandra Meyer, Vern and Chris Kusilek. Submitted photo courtesy of Karin Meyer.2 / 4
A pair of investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration were at the scene Thursday morning with Pierce sheriff's Sgt. Tom Gunderson. Phil Pfuehler photo.3 / 4
Crash site neighbor Norm Kusilek took a look at the wreckage of a small plane that made a rough landing Wednesday evening. Phil Pfuehler photo.4 / 4

Two men from Wasilla, Alaska, walked away from a small plane crash Wednesday night in the town of Clifton after their Cessna C185 experienced engine trouble and forced an emergency landing in a hayfield.

Passenger Miles S. Haisten, 53, was taken by ambulance to River Falls Area Hospital to be checked after complaining of back pain, but pilot Mark A. Campillo, 39, wasn't injured. Both men were treated and released.

According to Pierce County Sheriff's Deputy Tom Gunderson, the crash occurred just after 9 p.m. about five miles west of River Falls, just off 1090th Street.

Gunderson said the pilot suddenly experienced engine problems and knew he had only a few minutes to land. He wanted to reach nearby Fleming Field Airport in South St. Paul but couldn't.

"It was dusk, and he said there was just enough light to look for a large area to land where he could avoid houses," Gunderson said.

Clifton town residents reported seeing the plane circle low, even trying to land once before lifting back up and flying on.

Chris Kusilek, who lives on 1090th St., was team roping with his brother Pat. They saw the plane first try to land near an oatfield by the house of Elaine and Larry Baumann.

The Kusilek brothers rushed after the plane, trying to find it and wondering if it would land or crash.

They came upon the pilot and passenger already outside the plane near woods and a cornfield. Chris Kusilek said the passenger seemed shook up but the pilot was fine.

"I shook his hand and congratulated him," Kusilek said. "He did a good job."

Kusilek said the pilot seemed to think he'd lost fuel. Two of the four gas caps could be seen dangling by their chains, leaving openings to the fuel tanks.

"He'd only been flying for 1 1/2 hours and he had filled up before leaving, so he should have been good for 4 1/2 hours," Kusilek said. "He thought the gas got siphoned off by the wind."

Pat Kusilek was with his son, Dylan. They picked up a River Falls First Responder on the way to the crash site.

"We got there maybe five minutes after he came down," Pat said. "Thank God they were both out and walking when we go there. They waved their hands at us, saying they were OK. They were both lucky.

"It was pretty dramatic. You don't see something like that happen every day."

The First Responder brought by the Kusileks was able check out the two men before the ambulance arrived.

Two officials from the Federal Aviation Administration reached the crash site Thursday at 10 a.m. investigate. Gunderson joined them.

Gunderson checked the landing marks left on the hayfield and said the plane skidded about 125 feet before spinning and coming to a stop. Most of the plane was intact, but the propeller and wheel were ripped off during the landing.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department was alerted to a possible crash Wednesday night just before dark.

The single-engine craft was located a short time later in the field south of County Road M. The property is owned by David and Karin Meyer, according to Gunderson.

An Internet search indicates passenger Haisten is an experienced pilot himself, with both single- and multi-engine ratings. One site identified him has a flight instructor. Another named he and his wife as owners of a 1953 Cessna 70B aircraft.

The crash remains under investigation by the FAA.