Man Killed in Moose Lake Plane Crash

Updated: May 09, 2019 08:17 PM

A man from a Twin Cities suburb was killed when the plane he was flying crashed near the Moose Lake Airport.


Searchers found the wreckage of the Mooney model M20J single-engine airplane partially submerged in the Moose Horn River, just northwest of the runway, around 7 a.m. Thursday.  A man's body was in the plane.

Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said they believe the victim is 65-year-old Thomas Jay Stillwell of Plymouth, but an autopsy will be needed to confirm the man's identity.  Lake said Stillwell had been doing some work at Mercy Hospital and had used the airport previously.

Dr. Thomas Stillwell was killed in Moose Lake plane crash

Photo Credit: MN Flyer

According to a spokesperson at Mercy Hospital, Stillwell was a doctor with Minnesota Urology, which has several locations throught the state including in Moose Lake. She said Stillwell was based out of the Twin Cities, but saw patients twice a month at their location, which is why he was in the area. 

The Federal Aviation Administration reported the plane missing around 8 p.m. Wednesday, saying the pilot had filed a flight plan indicating plans to take off from Moose Lake at 4:30 p.m. and land at the Crystal Airport 45 minutes later, but had never arrived.  Lake said there is no way of knowing what time the plane actually took off because there is no log at the airport.

A spring snowstorm was moving through the region around the time of the crash.  Lake said she doesn't want to speculate on what may have caused the crash. She said weather did make their search challenging.

"It's been muddy. It's been cold. It's been windy. There has been a significant amount of wind out on the river. The river is shallow in spots so it's not real easy to navigate," said Lake. "Since I've been Sheriff, I have not been involved in any crash of this nature at all."

After receiving the report Wednesday evening, the Carlton County Sheriff's Office began a search with help from the St. Louis County Rescue Squad, Minnesota State Patrol, Civil Air Patrol, and members of the Moose Lake and Willow River fire departments.  Lake said the search had to be suspended early Thursday due to poor weather conditions but was resumed later in the morning, and the plane was found.

Investigators from the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive in Moose Lake on Thursday afternoon.

Statement from Minnesota Urology. 

"Dr. Stillwell’s practice was unique in that he focused mainly on providing care to patients in rural communities that otherwise did not have access to a urologic physician and surgeon. In addition to Moose Lake, Dr. Stillwell flew his plane to Mora MN, Onamia, MN, and Grantsburg, WI regularly for more than twenty years.

Dr. Stillwell was a board?certified urologist who received his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and completed his residency at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Prior to beginning his career at Minnesota Urology, Dr. Stillwell served as a surgeon with the U.S. Marines Mobile Surgical Hospital in Kuwait during Desert Storm.

He has been named a Top Doctor in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine numerous years, including 2019. Dr. Stillwell was an outstanding physician, colleague and friend who will be deeply missed. All of us at Minnesota Urology extend our condolences to his family, who remain in our thoughts and prayers."

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

Relay Media Amp

Protesters confront police on W. Superior Street

Protesters block I-35 in Duluth

Protesters take to streets of Duluth in memory of George Floyd

Duluth imposes Citywide Curfew

Walz says violence not about Floyd death, fully mobilizes National Guard

MDH reports 30 new COVID-19 deaths; 660 new cases