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UND pilot injured in crash near Park Rapids

GRAND FORKS -- A University of North Dakota student was slightly injured in a crash while piloting a small airplane owned by UND on Saturday night near Park Rapids.

According to UND spokesman Peter Johnson, Li Yang, a China Air employee studying at UND's aerospace school, was attempting to take off in a Cessna 172 about 10 p.m. Saturday from the airport at Park Rapids when the plane went down 100 to 150 yards from the runway.

Yang was treated and released from a hospital in Park Rapids and on Sunday was back in Grand Forks, according to Johnson.

The Cessna "sustained considerable damage," Johnson said in a news release. It doesn't appear weather was an issue in the crash, based on preliminary reports, Johnson said.

Dana Siewert, director of safety in UND's John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, flew to Park Rapids and said the accident will be investigated, according to Johnson.

Yang is one of several employees of China Air studying aviation at UND. He was flying solo and had just landed in Park Rapids shortly before taking off.

Yang was flying a "routine cross-country solo flight" that is part of the UND aviation program, and UND's insurance covers both Yang and the plane, Johnson said.

Such accidents are rare in the 40 years of UND's aviation program, said Johnson, who described the aviation program as having "a stellar safety program."

The school has won a key national flying competition 15 of the past 25 years, Johnson said. The National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON competition focuses on safety issues, Johnson said.