Friday, June 30, 2017

Air Tractor AT-602, N4196Y, registered to and operated by Wilbur-Ellis Company: Fatal accident occurred June 29, 2017 in Stirum, North Dakota

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fargo, North Dakota
Air Tractor, Inc.; Olney, Texas

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Wilbur Ellis Company:

NTSB Identification: CEN17LA244
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Thursday, June 29, 2017 in Stirum, ND
Aircraft: AIR TRACTOR INC AT 602, registration: N4196Y
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On June 29, 2017, about 0740 central daylight time, an Air Tractor AT602 airplane, N4196Y, was destroyed during an in-flight collision with terrain near Stirum, North Dakota. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Wilbur-Ellis Company as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 aerial application flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site. The flight was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight originated from the Lisbon Municipal Airport (6L3), Lisbon, North Dakota, about 0700.

Witnesses reported fog in the area, with little or no wind, at the time of the accident. Two witnesses observed the airplane flying low shortly before the accident. As they watched, the airplane descended toward the terrain and they heard the sound of the impact. They estimated that the accident site was about 1/4 mile from their location and added that this was near the extent of the visibility at that time due to the fog.

The airplane impacted a soybean field about 14 miles west-southwest of 6L3. The debris field was approximately 280 ft long by 170 ft wide. The airframe was fragmented, with portions of all control surfaces observed in the debris field. The engine separated from the airframe, and the propeller assembly separated from the engine. Both were located at the accident site. Ground marks consistent in appearance with propeller slashes were located near the initial impact point. The elevation of the accident site was about 1,350 ft.

An airmen's meteorological information (AIRMET) advisory for instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions was in effect at the time of the accident. The accident site located within, but near the southwestern extent, of the advisory area. The current area forecast pred

 icted broken clouds at 2,000 ft mean sea level and visibilities of 3 to 5 miles in mist until 1000 for eastern North Dakota. Weather conditions recorded by the Gwinner Airport (GWR) automated weather observing system, located about 8 miles east of the accident site, at 0735, included calm wind, 9 miles visibility, and overcast clouds at 500 ft above ground level.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

GWINNER—The pilot who died in the "Crop Spraying" accident near Gwinner, is being remembered today as an adventurous, caring father of three.

44-year old John Goerger of Barney was a hunter, rodeo star, airplane lover and family man.

Before he could ride a bike, John Goerger was already thinking flight.

His dad recalled the first time John got in a plane with him.

Like his Dad, John was a rodeo star in his early years.

He was an artist, a member of the Goerger family bluegrass band, and always with his dad.

John leaves behind a family that loved everything about him.

This Dad of three, who loved adventure, who loved flight and respected the rules and art of flying.

He got his license at 16.

For the Goerger's, it is another loss.

Daughter Bernadine died of Pancreatic Cancer, leaving behind 5 children.

Now John, who possessed another talent, he could spin a yarn like the best of them.

In the coming days there will be talk of this famous picture.

A small town celebration in Richland county, John then two, tried a sip of Grain Belt, then drank the rest.

The family agreed today, after his funeral, John Goerger will go out in style.

His ashes buried with an airplane cylinder from a World War Two Radial engine.

Forever, in flight.

The funeral for Goerger will be held Monday at 10:30 AM at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Wyndmere.

UPDATE (7:11): John Goerger from Barney has been identified as the pilot in the deadly plane crash.

Officials with Wilbur-Ellis, where Goerger was employed for 11 years, confirmed his identity after family could be notified.

UPDATE (2:00): At 7:41 Thursday morning a 2010 Air Tractor 602 agricultural spray plane crashed in a bean field 1,500 feet south of Highway 13, just nine miles west of Gwinner.

The pilot, an adult male from Barney died in the crash. The plane took off from the Lisbon airport and crashed a short time later. Fog was present at the time of the crash.

The crash is still under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.

ORIGINAL: Travis Paeper with the Sargent County Sheriff's Department has confirmed that a man is dead after a plane crashed 8 miles west of Gwinner.

Paeper says the crash happened around 8 Thursday morning. An area farmer witnessed the crash. The plane that went down was an Air Tractor 602.

Police say the dense fog may have been a factor of the crash. The man's identity is being withheld until family is notified. 

GWINNER, N.D. -- A crop spraying pilot died early Thursday morning while attempting to spray pesticides on a potato field in dense fog about eight miles west of Gwinner in southeast North Dakota.

The pilot, 45-year-old John Goerger, was from the small town of Barney in southeast North Dakota. He was married and had children.

Sargent County Sheriff Travis Paeper said a nearby farmer and his wife were having coffee on their patio about 7:45 a.m. when they heard the plane, saw it emerge from the fog and nosedive into a soybean field about 500 yards from their farm home.

The farmer called 911 and his brother who was a volunteer firefighter and they rushed to the scene along with emergency responders.  The pilot was dead at the scene, said the sheriff.

The plane was a single-engine Air Tractor 602 made in 2010 and had taken off from the Lisbon Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the cause.

GWINNER, ND (KFGO) - A Barney, ND man who was flying a crop sprayer died in an airplane crash in Sargent County.  Sheriff Travis Paeper says the plane went down in a bean field shortly before 8 a.m. Thursday, about 8 miles west of Gwinner.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol says the pilot plane took off from the Lisbon Airport.  The airplane was a 2010 Air Tractor 602.   

The sheriff says a farmer who lives nearby witnessed the crash from his home, about 500 yards away.  He says dense fog in the area is believed to be a contributing factor.

The pilot was working for an area crop spraying company. The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the cause.

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