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Plane crashes into Sauk Rapids home; two on on plane killed

By Kia Farhang

Forum News Service

SAUK RAPIDS — It felt like a bomb going off.

Former North Dakota State University wide receiver Kole Heckendorf had just come home from a golf tournament Friday with his brother-in-law Jeff Hille, a former pitcher for the Bison baseball team.

Hille and a friend left Heckendorf alone in the house around 8:15 p.m. The record-breaking wide receiver walked upstairs to his bedroom.

About 15 minutes later, a small plane crashed into the house, knocking Heckendorf off his feet.

At first, Heckendorf suspected some paint thinner he left in the garage had exploded. Then he looked outside and saw the flames.

“I didn’t really have time to do anything,” he said.

Heckendorf jumped out the bedroom’s second-floor window to safety. By that time, his neighbors had arrived at the scene.

“They were just really happy to see me walking from the backyard,” he said.

Others weren’t as lucky. Both people aboard the plane died in the crash, according to Sauk Rapids police. Authorities told the St. Cloud Times on Sunday that one preliminary identification has been made but an official announcement has been delayed.

“One of the families hasn’t been notified yet. ... It’s going to take a bit to do a 100 percent positive identification of the remains … they weren’t identifiable in the house,” said Sauk Rapids Police Chief Perry Beise.

Identification of the victims is being handled by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Ramsey, Minn.

Heckendorf, 28, and his wife, Kristen, who played volleyball for the Bison, planned to move into their own home next week.

Hille’s house was full of furniture for the Heckendorfs’ new place. The crash and resulting fire destroyed all of it.

“Basically, we just watched all our stuff burn,” Kole Heckendorf said. “Everything we own is gone.”

They’re currently staying with Kristen’s parents, who live nearby.

Heckendorf also lost his dog, Storm. He choked up as he recounted walking to the front of his house to look for him. “I yelled, but there was no chance.”

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