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Mark Yaggie, 41, of Breckenridge, Minn., died July 2, 2017, in a plane crash near the Moorhead airport. Special to The Forum

Final NTSB report: Plane was in trouble before crash that killed Breckenridge farmer

MOORHEAD, Minn. — The final report on the crash of a vintage aircraft that killed Breckenridge, Minn., farmer and pilot Mark Yaggie in July indicates the plane was in obvious distress when it went down near here, but an examination of the engine later found no visible signs of failure.

The report from the National Transportation Safety Board said Yaggie died of "multiple traumatic injuries" and that the only substance found in his body during an autopsy was diphenhydramine, an antihistamine used for allergy-type symptoms or for motion sickness.

The final report, filed Nov. 2, follows a preliminary report filed about a week after the crash.

Yaggie, 41, took off from Fargo's Hector International Airport at 6 p.m. on July 2, enroute to Lyons Field in Pelican Rapids, Minn.

The NTSB said that shortly after takeoff, when the plane was about 900 feet off the ground, Yaggie told the Hector control tower he was landing at the Moorhead airport instead.

The controller asked the pilot if he needed help, and Yaggie replied, "I don't think so." The pilot was given clearance to land at the Moorhead airport and was again asked if he needed assistance, to which he replied, "No."

According to the report, there was no further communication with the pilot, and radar showed the plane in a controlled descent toward Moorhead. The two airports are about 10 miles apart, as the crow flies.

The NTSB said one witness, located 2 miles north of the crash site, saw the plane flying no more than 200 feet from the ground with landing gear extended.

The witness said the plane was "obviously in distress" and there was a "terrible racket," which sounded like "a gearbox or engine that was failing or out of oil." Others in the same vicinity said the engine was missing and popping and flying "very low."

One witness interviewed by the Clay County Sheriff's Department said the plane's wings were "rocking" before the right wing clipped a light pole at a weigh station along Interstate 94.

The wing sheared off, and the plane crashed in a cornfield just west of the Moorhead airport. There was no fire.

Witnesses and others went to the crash site to help the pilot, who was conscious, coherent and talking. They pressed a shirt against a large laceration on Yaggie's forehead, but shortly thereafter, he died from his injuries, the report said.

A Federal Aviation Administration inspector said Yaggie had been wearing a lap belt and shoulder harness, but the shoulder harness failed.

Three days after the crash, the engine was disassembled and examined at Tri-State Aviation in Wahpeton, N.D., with FAA support.

Based on that exam, an FAA inspector said the engine was running as reported by witnesses. The engine had no visible signs of failure, the report said.

Yaggie was flying a North American Trojan T-28A, a type of plane used to train military pilots. It was manufactured in 1951, according to an FAA registry.

The NTSB said its investigators did not travel to the scene of the crash.