Pilot killed in Hawley plane crash
HAWLEY, Minn. -- Roz Randorf didn’t worry about her long-term boyfriend, Kevin Ferris, piloting small planes from their home in Duluth to Moorhead.
But Friday afternoon, she got the call she least expected.
Friends at Twin Ports Aviation in Superior, Wis., told her Ferris’ plane was missing. He had taken to the skies from Superior around 9 a.m. en route to Moorhead to see his parents on Easter weekend.
The 48-year-old Ferris, best known in the Duluth area as “The Rose Man,” never arrived. He was found dead by Clay County authorities Friday after his airplane crashed about four miles south of Hawley.
“You kiss him goodbye and you don’t think you won’t see him again,” Randorf said Friday night as she drove to Moorhead, where both she and Ferris lived until moving to Duluth seven years ago.
His family last heard from him when he was flying over Park Rapids, about 60 miles east of Hawley and 150 miles west of Superior, Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.
The last contact of any sort with Ferris was made around 10:15 a.m. near Detroit Lakes, Randorf said.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department began helping with a search for the missing plane when the first call came in around 12:30 p.m., Bergquist said.
Bergquist said a search plane spotted the wreckage from the air about 4:15 p.m.
Randorf said she had taken the day off work to man The Rose Man, a Duluth flower shop the couple bought in April 2011.
After the wreckage of Ferris’ plane was found, Randorf began the long drive to Moorhead, staying in constant contact with Ferris’ mother, Sharon, and hoping rescuers would find Ferris alive.
She received a call from the sheriff’s office after searchers located the single-engine, two-seat Cessna.
Bergquist speculated that Ferris may have tried to land the plane because of the fog. Fog also complicated search efforts, he said, as the aerial search didn’t start until midafternoon. The crash site was difficult to see from nearby roads.
Ferris was a Moorhead High School graduate who had a 10-year-old son, Simon Randorf, with Roz and is also the father of Michael Ferris, 23, and Brandon Ferris, 20. He is also a stepfather to Roz’s 21-year-old son, Spencer.
After working 25 years at KXJB-TV in Fargo, Randorf and Ferris moved to Duluth in 2006. Randorf is the advertising director at the Duluth News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.
Randorf said Ferris had always wanted to be a pilot and earned his pilot’s license two years ago after learning to fly at Twin Ports Aviation, the same company he rented the plane from Friday.
“He wishes he would have started flying earlier in life,” Randorf said.
She said the couple usually made the drive together back to Moorhead, but the short plane trip between Duluth and Moorhead was an appealing reason for Ferris to learn to fly.
Randorf said she had never worried about Ferris in the air.
“He was a good pilot. He took it seriously, he understood how to route a flight plan. He was very conscientious. He wasn’t foolish when it came to the mechanics,” she said.
Friday morning, nothing struck Randorf as out of the ordinary. The couple had joked together about Randorf working at the shop for Ferris. She said Ferris kissed her goodbye as he usually does and she expected to see him Sunday. The family had Easter buffet reservations at the Superior airport Sunday.
“It’s a traditional freak accident. It changes your whole life,” she said.
Randorf said Ferris will likely be remembered for his kindness and gentle touch that reached far past his corner rose shop.
“He was a great businessman. We were increasing sales at the shop,” Randorf said. “(He was) a real gentleman, very giving.”
Bergquist said investigators will likely be at the crash site again today. Authorities did not officially identify Ferris on Friday as the victim of the crash.
Funeral arrangements are pending, Randorf said.
By Wendy Reuer, Forum News Service
Reporter Charly Haley contributed to this report