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NTSB releases final report for September 2021 plane crash near Hiles

Emergency responders gather at a trailhead in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest after a Tuesday-morning plane crash.
Katie Thoresen
Emergency responders gathered at a trailhead in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest when the plane crashed in September 2021.

Federal regulators now have a better idea of what caused a plane to crash in the woods in Forest County.

The National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] released its final investigation for the September 2021 crash that killed all three people on board.

The NTSB listed the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to maintain adequate speed which caused the plane to stall and then spin in nosedive before crashing.

The crash happened on the morning of September 28, 2021, in part of the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest north of the Town of Hiles, east of Three Lakes.

According to the NTSB, the plane had left Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport around 8:50 a.m.

The flight was to get aerial imagery of forest vegetation for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


Less than 10 minutes later, the plane’s speed increased before quickly slowing down, from 209 knots to about 93 knots in less than two minutes.

It was at that time a call was broadcast to air traffic control saying “Mayday, mayday, mayday… we’re in a spin.”

A witness about a mile from the crash site told NTSB he heard a “loud, strange sounding airplane.”

He looked up and saw a plane nosedive quickly while spinning along the longitudinal axis.

The witness said he lost sight of the plane behind the tree line before hearing the crash.

The pilot Joseph Johnson, 28, of Florida, and the two passengers Mike Dickens, 28, and Dominik Faciano, 23, both from Missouri worked for the Missouri-based Surdex Corporation.

All three died in the crash.

The NTSB investigators didn’t find anything wrong with the plane to suggest any mechanical malfunction caused the crash.

There are no recordings from inside the plane to know what was happening with the pilot before the plane lost speed and started spinning.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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