Preliminary report says plane’s wing struck tree before crashing in South Dakota

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ABERDEEN, S.D. — A preliminary crash report from the National Transportation Safety Board indicates the pilot of a Cessna that crashed earlier this month clipped a tree with its wing prior to the crash.

The crash report posted Monday, Oct. 28, does not list the pilot who died in the crash. The pilot has previously been identified as Gerald W. Seliski, 70, of Hecla.

Seliski left the Aberdeen Regional Airport at 10:31 p.m. on Oct. 9. His plane was reported missing Oct. 10. Following an extensive search, the wreckage was found Oct. 21.

The crash site was initially identified as approximately three miles north of Aberdeen, but the NTSB report indicates the crash site was about seven miles north of town.

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According to the crash report, evidence at the crash site indicates the plane’s left wing initially hit a 60-foot tall tree. The fuselage also skidded about 500 feet, according to the report, before coming to rest on the edge of a small pond.

A search of FAA records indicates Seliski had a student pilot’s license. According to the NTSB report weather conditions were described as dark night instrument meteorological conditions. No flight plan was filed, but Seliski was reportedly headed for Oakes, N.D.

The report also indicates Seliski’s plane was evaluated in Aberdeen for its annual inspection, but the pilot declined to have work completed in Aberdeen and left. The plane was ultimately found by a hunter.

Robert Katz, a commercial pilot and former flight instructor from Dallas, who tracks plane crashes across the country, said Seliski shouldn’t have been flying if he was a student pilot.

Student pilots are required to get approval from their flight instructor for any solo flight, Katz said. Additionally, he said, student pilots aren’t allowed to fly at night. He said flying at night in general is extremely dangerous if a pilot isn’t instrument-qualified.

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