Pilot Who Crashed Into St. Louis River Was Cirrus Design Engineer


DULUTH, Minn. – The pilot who died after the plane he was operating crashed into the St. Louis River Friday has been identified as David Rathbun, of Hermantown, according to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office.


Courtesy: Daniel Rathbun

According to David’s brother, Daniel, he was a “brilliant” design engineer for Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth.

“David was instrumental in the design of the Cirrus single engine private jet that recently won the coveted “Collier Aviation” award,” Daniel said in a social media post.

Sr22 2

Cirrus media stock photo of an SR22 plane.

According to FlightRadar24.com, the plane David was operating was a Cirrus SR22 that took off from the Duluth International Airport Friday afternoon before abruptly crashing around 4 p.m. – just minutes after takeoff.

“Help us with a prayer for my family. David was indeed a gifted mover and shaker in the aviation world and will be horribly missed,” Daniel said.

According to authorities, David was the only person on board at the time of the crash.

A cause is being investigated by the FAA and NTSB.

David was an employee with Cirrus Design Corporation for more than 26 years, according to his LinkedIn page.

FOX 21 has reached out to Cirrus for a statement.



The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office says a 52-year-old man from Hermantown died Friday after the plane he was operating crashed into the St. Louis River between Duluth and Superior.

“We had a report just after 4 o’clock came in to 911 about a single airplane crash near Grassy Point drawbridge,” said Sgt. Ben Nye, of the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office.  Plane Crash 4

The St. Louis County Rescue Squad and multiple other area agencies responded to the scene to find the small plane mostly submerged in the icy water.

The identity of the pilot was not released Friday evening.

“Currently, our rescue squad is on scene waiting for the FAA and NTSB, and then we have a bunch of other stuff to go through with federal regulations,” Nye said.

Plane CrashFOX 21 received images over the scene that were sent by a local flight instructor who was giving a lesson when he got a call asking if he was okay because a plane had just crashed. The instructor, who did not want to be named, said he circled around before spotting where the plane had apparently skidded along the ice and crashed into the water.

Meanwhile, according to FlightRadar24.com, the plane is a 6-year-old Cirrus SR22 that took off from the Duluth International Airport before making a left-hand loop and quickly falling into the river just minutes later.

The last contact was at 1,125 feet before dropping at a speed of 150 mph, according to the flight tracking website.




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