TOWN OF ROCK

The victims of a double-fatal airplane crash Tuesday were a man and woman on their way to Florida, according to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.

They flew over Richard Pawluk, who was walking his dog in the Happy Hollow area Tuesday morning.

Pawluk, 64, was talking to a friend in a driveway near the intersection of Driftwood Drive and Happy Hollow Road.

“All of sudden, it just kind of appeared,” he said. “It was kind of climbing. It sounded like it was doing real good, and it banked and it sounded good.

“And then I just heard silence.”

The plane had disappeared below the tree line. Then “I heard a crunch,” he said.

He handed his dog’s leash to his friend, ran down the road and pounded on the door of a neighbor who is a retired EMT. He told the neighbor he wasn’t sure, but he thought he just saw a plane crash.

“Should I call 911?” he asked. The neighbor called as Pawluk ran into the woods and through deep snow for a distance that authorities estimated at one-quarter mile.

Pawluk called 911 as soon as he saw the debris in an area with springs and flowing water. A dispatcher asked if anyone was yelling and whether there was a fire. There wasn’t, but Pawluk could see steam.

“The landing gear was sticking up out of the water,” said Pawluk, who paused and then sighed, adding: “It wasn’t a pretty sight. …

“I tried to get in closer to the wreck, but it was so muddy. I’d put my boot in places, and I’d sink up to my knee,” he said. “In one place, I had a heck of a time getting my foot back out of the mud.”

Pawluk paused as he described his efforts and thought of the plane’s occupants.

“I wish I could have made a difference,” he said softly.

It appeared the plane went down shortly after takeoff and hit trees before it crashed, authorities said Tuesday. They said the plane’s occupants were dead when rescuers reached the plane.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Jude Maurer wouldn’t say more about the victims because he didn’t want to indirectly identify them until the Rock County Medical Examiner’s Department had notified relatives.

The medical examiner’s department did not expect to identify the victims Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that the crash south of the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport was of a Velocity V-Twin, which is a two-engine, four-seat plane.

A safety board investigator was on the scene Wednesday, Maurer said.

Velocity is a Florida manufacturer of kit, or build-it-yourself, airplanes. Velocity planes feature wings and engines toward the rear. A small wing in the front, called a canard, takes the place of the tail stabilizer on conventional aircraft.

According to a review on the Experimental Aircraft Association website, “The Velocity is not only a high-end performer but also a very stable and safe aircraft to fly. It is virtually un-stallable and un-spinnable.”

Sheriff’s deputies continued to guard the entrance to the site Wednesday. Maurer said he was told the federal agency hoped to remove the plane Wednesday or Thursday.

The crash was reported around 9:18 a.m. Tuesday. It was believed to be the first fatal crash associated with the airport since 1999.

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