Bad weather may have been factor in plane crash that killed Twin Cities doctor

The 65-year-old was bound for Crystal Airport, but never arrived.
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Inclement weather may have been a factor in a small plane crash that killed a Twin Cities-based urologist last week in Moose Lake, northern Minnesota.

Dr. Thomas Stillwell, 65, of Plymouth, died when the Mooney M20J airplane crashed into the Moose Horn River around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, shortly after taking off from Moose Lake Carlton County Airport.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary findings, Stillwell's plane came to a rest on the west bank of the river in 2-4 feet of water, with the engine and propeller imbedded in the mud and silt, and the tail extended into the air.

Stillwell, who was bound for Crystal Airport at the time, died from his injuries, with the plane suffering "substantial damage."

While the NTSB hasn't come to a determination yet as to the cause of the crash, the preliminary report does go into detail about the inclement weather in the Moose Lake area at the time of the crash.

Just before he took off, a weather station noted there was light snow and overcast clouds at a height of 800 feet, while there were moderate winds with gusts of up to 20 mph.

Five minutes after Stillwell crashed, the overcast clouds were at a height of 600 feet, the winds were slightly stronger and visibility had gotten worse.

Stillwell had requested a weather briefing from the flight service station at 3:48 p.m., and had left a local hospital to travel to the Moose Lake airport at 4 p.m.

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The alarm was raised after he failed to check in with air traffic control, prompting the search.

Stillwell, a U.S. Navy veteran, had been a practicing urologist in Minnesota since 1991, having completed his urology training at the Mayo Clinic in 1988, before spending three years at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.

Per his obituary, he had obtained his private pilot's license in 1994, and became a longstanding member of Club Cherokee flying club based out of Crystal Airport, which owned the plane he crashed in.

He was described as a "meticulous" pilot known as the "flying doctor," and had logged more than 2,000 hours of flight time.

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