Willmar rocket sled man ID'ed by police, story interest grows


WILLMAR – The story of a Willmar man’s attempted flight with his homemade rocket bike has gone viral Tuesday.

The 40-year-old man was injured Friday afternoon after attempting to fly a homemade rocket bike on skis off his house roof in the 800 block of Third Street Southeast.

The man was identified Tuesday by the Willmar Police Department as Patrick Rodney Ellson of WIllmar.  

West Central Tribune efforts to contact Ellson were unsuccessful.

While no one was at the Ellson home Tuesday afternoon, the remains of the ill-fated flight lay in the snow outside of the residence.

The Tribune’s incident report Monday was posted on Twitter by the @bestofMinnesota account with a headline, “Good old Willmar.”

Jerrid Sebesta posted a copy of the incident story Tuesday and wrote, “OK, I’m gettings lots of emails/texts on this one … this was NOT me, people.”

The lead on Bicycling magazine’s website Tuesday read, “Evidently taking cues from Wile E. Coyote, a Minnesota man injured himself trying to ride a homemade rocket bike last Friday.”

The GoMn website story read, “This incidents report will be legendary one day. ...Evil Knievel died in 2007, so we know he doesn't live in Willmar, Minnesota, but a man who attempted a Knievel-like stunt from the roof of his house does.”

According to a police report, the rocket bike consisted of a pair of skis, a bicycle frame and motorcycle exhaust pipe and was being fueled with Heet, an antifreeze product.

Ellson apparently attempted to fly the unit off his house roof, fell approximately 13 feet and hit a fence in the yard during the fall.

When rescue personnel arrived Friday at Ellson’s residence, he was on his back on a sled, pushing himself around on the driveway with his feet. He was reportedly swearing and yelling about the pain, according to the report.