Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Rockwell S-2R Thrush Commander, N4956X: Fatal accident occurred August 10, 2021 in Strasburg, Emmons County, North Dakota

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.

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fargo, North Dakota

Michel L Gunia

Location: Strasburg, ND 
Accident Number: CEN21FA368
Date & Time: August 10, 2021, 07:40 Local
Registration: N4956X
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On August 10, at 0740 central daylight time, a Rockwell International S2R agricultural airplane, N4956X, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Strasburg, North Dakota. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 aerial application flight.

An employee of the pilot, who loaded the chemical on the airplane, stated that the pilot was alert and in a good mood as usual. She met the pilot at the loading pad at 0630, whereupon she loaded the hopper with chemical, then the pilot departed about 0645. The pilot returned to the airport at 0721 after he sprayed the first field. The airplane was rinsed and loaded with a new chemical; the pilot departed again to spray a sunflower field. She added that she had never witnessed nor heard the pilot mention any issues with the airplane’s GPS.

A colleague of the pilot, who was familiar with the operation, stated that the pilot was completing his second aerial application flight of the day and intended to apply insecticide to a sunflower field. He and the pilot had sprayed this field many times before, which was always done in a north-south racetrack pattern. He had never seen the pilot spray this field in an eastwest pattern before, and that it shouldn’t be done due to the large powerlines on the west side. He stated that the pilot had recently experienced problems with the airplane’s GPS.

A witness driving eastbound observed the airplane flying west after it exited the sunflower field. The airplane then collided with the power lines, then crashed onto a road and slid into a field. 

A postaccident examination revealed three damaged power lines on the west side of the target field. The east side line was the least damaged but was still mostly intact. The center line was mostly severed with less than a third of the wire strands intact. The west side line was completely severed and lying on the ground. On the ground underneath the powerlines were several pieces of the accident airplane. A separated piece of the right wing leading edge exhibited impact marks and scoring consistent with the twisted metal power line. The field of airplane debris extended west of the power lines up to the main wreckage location. 

The engine and propeller had separated from the airplane and were located in the debris field, about 50 ft east of the main wreckage. The remainder of the airplane came to rest inverted in the field. The top of the vertical stabilizer and rudder were found separated and exhibited contact signatures from the power lines. Electrical burn marks, heat distress, and black soot were found on the top of the rudder. The flight controls were continuous from the cockpit to the respective control surfaces.

The airplane’s Satloc G4 GPS device and the MVP-50T engine monitor were removed and sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders Laboratory for data extraction. The airplane was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N4956X
Model/Series: S2R
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
Operating Certificate(s) Held:
Agricultural aircraft (137)
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: K7L2,1779 ft msl
Observation Time: 07:35 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 13°C /10°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.89 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Linton, ND (7L2)
Destination: Strasburg, ND

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 46.086986,-100.23368 

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

Michel Gunia
1957 - 2021

Michel Lee Gunia, 63, passed away unexpectedly August 10, 2021 doing what he loved.

Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13 with a prayer service starting at 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, Linton.

Funeral services for Mike will be held 10:30 a.m. Saturday, August 14 at the First Baptist Church, Linton, with Rev. Rich Cook officiating. Myers Funeral Home of Linton will be livestreaming Mike's service for any family and friends that can't attend at under Mike's obituary.

Michel was born to Leon and JoAnn (Huber) Gunia in 1957 in Bismarck, the third of six siblings. The family moved to New Hope, Minnesota, when Mike was two, where he graduated from Cooper High School. Mike found his love of aviation as a child watching the local North Dakota sprayers in the summers. In typical Mike fashion, he got his pilot's license before he had a driver's license and began flying as a junior in high school. Mike was the star of his high school gymnastics team and excelled in parallel bars and high bar. He never missed a chance to show off his gymnastic skills.

After high school, he received his airframe and powerplant degree at the MSP airport and worked at the Crystal Airport. Mike was always up for an adventure, traveling around the world, spending five months working in Antarctica as a heavy equipment operator and spending a month in Australia.

Mike moved to North Dakota in 1987 after spending time with his uncle and working at Temvik Oil. The family farm near Temvik became their home where they raised their four children, Adrien, Joseph, Kimberly and Laura. Many reruns of Star Wars, old westerns and war movies were watched with a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup as everyone had their spot on the floor. Mike's strong Christian faith guided him through every aspect of his life.

After the death of his uncle, Mike took odd jobs including Dockter's Blacksmith as well as his own trucking company "Pride of the Prairie." He was finally settled when he became the Linton Airport manager and their in-house mechanic. Crop spraying came soon after and Mike worked tirelessly to build North Central Aviation, while also continuing to advocate for growth at the Linton Airport.

After all the years of working on planes as a profession, Mike found great joy in his restored A-T6 Texan which quickly became his favorite hobby. On any given day, you could hear the deep rumble of his plane around Linton, as he often flew to fly-ins, airshows, as well as doing flyovers or just a late flight on a calm evening.

Mike had a sense of humor that was unmatched. He had many friends both in his community and in the aviation community. He had an ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and found many matching passions which turned into lifelong friends. Many a farmer would tell stories of heart attacks as Mike would buzz their truck or tractor, which he would find hilarious when you yelled at him later.

Mike is survived by his children, Joseph (Marlina), Kimberly and Laura (Nick) Beastrom; stepdaughter, Adrien (Chris) Roehrich; 11 grandchildren; his parents, Leon and JoAnn Gunia; siblings Marc, Monte (Kendra), Myles (Val) and Shelly (Steve) Schoen; brother-in-law, Tom Ochsenbauer; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by Marcy (Gunia) Ochsenbauer.

He is also survived by his beloved Christmas Tree and Dancing Lady Lamp.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to First Baptist Church of Linton and Sand Creek Cemetery at BNC Bank, PO Box 910, Linton, ND 58552.

EMMONS COUNTY, North Dakota - The pilot that died in a small engine plane crash out of Emmons County has been identified.

63-year-old Michel Gunia of Linton, North Dakota, died after his crop sprayer hit a high voltage transmission line around 7:40 Tuesday morning. The impact disabled the plane, causing it to crash into a nearby field.

The crash happened three miles south of Strasburg, North Dakota, near the intersection of 7th Avenue and 92nd Street Southeast. Gunia was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash remains under investigation by the NDHP and FAA with the assistance of the Emmons County Sheriff’s Office.


What started as a crop dusting job turned fatal for one man in Emmons County near Strasburg after his plane crashed in a field.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol says the crash happened Tuesday morning near 7th Avenue and 92nd Street when a pilot struck a powerline.

The powerline is still down on 92nd Street and the road is closed.

The pilot’s identity has not been released. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Highway Patrol says the chances of a crash like this one happening in the area are exceptionally low.

“This is a rare occurrence. This isn’t something that happens very often. A lot of investigative work is fixing to go into it. As far as federally, they are going to have to come in and do their investigation,” said Michael Wald.

Trooper Wald says this is the first time that he’s had to respond to something like this in 10 years.

The cause of the crash is now being investigated.


  1. I always hate reading about these fatal Ag crashes. They are perhaps the most important pilots in the civilian pilot world helping to keep us all fed - including food for those other critically important pilots in the Medivac and firefighting pilot seats.


  2. The pilot was a dear friend of mine. i am still just sick at heart over this. He was one of the nicest people I have ever known.

    God has welcomed you with open arms, Mike!

  3. I don't like it when the articles say "he died doing what he loved." He didn't love crashing.

  4. Mike was a good friend of ours. I remember him taking us up for rides.

  5. Mike was my brother and one of the best men I've ever known. I miss him every day.

  6. Definitely the best man I ever met in Aviation. Missed dearly….