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Friends, Co-Workers Remember Princeton Plane Crash Victims

PRINCETON, Minn. (WCCO) -- Flying his single engine Cessna gave 47-year-old Chad Rygwall his second lease on life.

After a heart attack, six years ago, nearly took his lifelong dream.

Chad aspired to be a commercial pilot, but a diagnosis of color blindness kept him unable to fly at night.

Jill Rygwall and Chad Rygwall
(credit: CBS)

"For him it was quiet, it was peaceful, it was his way to relax and just unwind," Chad Rygwall's employer Trisha Rustad said.

Rygwall spend the past 17 years working as an HVAC technician at Pierce Refrigeration in Anoka.

Rustad says Rygwall was a lead technician at her family business.  Now the work orders under Rygwall's bolt are empty, and saddened customers are calling.

"They're just in shock, just in shock and they've called me, I've only called a couple, most of them have called me and they're like, 'Please tell me it's not our Chad,'" Rustad said.

Rygwall left work early Friday afternoon to take his wife Jill on a pleasure flight up the Mississippi River. They departed from the Princeton airport where his plane was kept in a hangar.

Just west of Anoka, and shortly after 5:30 p.m., the low flying plane hit power lines, and plummeted into the river's swift current below.

Witnesses recovered Jill's body but could not revive her. Divers went into the river on Sunday to retrieve Chad's body which was still inside the submerged and badly damaged fuselage.

"Jill was very kind and she had a knack for relating to our special needs students," Princeton Superintendent of schools Dr. Julia Espe said.

Jill Rygwall worked as a para-professional at Princeton's Intermediate school, primarily with fourth, fifth and sixth graders. But Espe said she was also involved in many other classrooms as well.

"Over the weekend I heard from some parents who had kids in those classrooms and they're just so sad about all of this," Espe said.

A husband and wife out for a simple fall color pleasure flight, turned fatal so quickly. A loss that is leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of so many, the customers and classrooms they touched.

The couple leaves behind their only child, 13-year-old Andrew, who is being cared for by his grandparents.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for his benefit.

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