Authorities in Rochester are investigating after a small plane crashed north of the city's airport, leaving three people dead.
The Olmsted County Sheriff's Office says it received a report of a plane in distress from air traffic controllers in the Twin Cities shortly before midnight last night. The pilot had apparently reported engine trouble.
Deputies on their way to the airport then received a report of a plane down near a home along 31st Avenue.
When they arrived, the plane was upside down with one wing detached.
"It's in a heavily wooded area, so it's a little hard to get to and work with," said Capt. Terry Waletzski, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.
Waletzksi said there was extensive damage to the plane and a fire, so authorities weren't able to identify the plane's tail number at first. By midmorning, authorities had identified the tail number but weren't releasing it to the public.
Lori Eaton, a resident nearby, said she heard the crash.
"This one actually sounded like a helicopter and very close. We don't usually wake up around planes around here. But this one sounded very close, very low, and then we heard a crash," Eaton said.
Eaton said she and her husband thought it might have crashed at the airport, so they went outside to see if they could help.
The found the plane at the bottom of their hill. It was on fire. Eaton's husband called 911.
"I just went to see if there was anyone I could help. No one was answering my calls and it was just engulfed in flames as soon as it hit," she said.
NTSB investigators are expected to examine the crash site today.