A Missouri business owner died Sunday morning in a plane crash after texting his family that the aircraft had hit turbulence, authorities said.
Two witnesses reported that the Piper PA-32 was coming apart in the air as it went down in a wooded area less than a mile north of the Cuba Municipal Airport, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Cody Fulkerson said. A wing was found a quarter mile away from the rest of the plane.
Cuba is about 85 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Pilot Jeffrey B. Hansen, 54, of St. Charles, told his family about rough skies in the Rolla area just five minutes before the crash was reported, Fulkerson said. Hansen’s 7:40 a.m. text message was the last time family heard from him.
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Hansen’s dog who went everywhere with him also died in the crash. No one else was aboard the plane, Fulkerson said.
Fulkerson said Hansen had taken off from Branson, where he has a lake house.
The plane was headed to the Creve Coeur Airport in suburban St. Louis. His business, Hansen’s Tree Service and Environmental Wood Resources Inc., operates in both communities. A stop in Cuba wasn’t part of his flight plane, but it appeared that he was headed to the small rural airport there, Fulkerson said.
“He was definitely in trouble and trying to get the plane on the ground,” Fulkerson said.
The Federal Aviation Administration was sending a team to the scene to begin an investigation, Tony Molinaro, an agency spokesman, said in an email.