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UPDATED: Pilot, passenger identified in fatal plane crash near Bemidji

Investigators take a look Tuesday of a crashed ultralight plane near Bemidji. The plane crashed Monday evening while a pilot was giving flights. MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER

BEMIDJI – The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a plane crash Monday that left one man dead and another injured.

Ultralight plane pilot Jay Russell Davis, 49, of Bemidji was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash, reported at 7:17 p.m., occurred at the Moberg Seaplane Air Base, a grass landing strip west of Bemidji off of 15th Street NW in Grant Valley Township.

In a news release, Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said witnesses reported the plane was banking through a turn – apparently preparing to land at the grass strip – when the wing struck the ground causing the plane to crash.

This aircraft is described as a “tricycle” style plane with seating for the pilot and one passenger position behind the pilot.

Davis and his passenger, 56-year-old Paul Jerome Wannarka of Bemidji, were strapped into their seats at the time of the crash.

Wannarka initially was transported by Bemidji Ambulance to Sanford Bemidji Medical Center for his injuries. He was then airlifted to a Fargo, N.D., hospital.

Witnesses told sheriff’s officials that Davis was an experienced ultralight pilot.

“He had taken up several people, he was just returning” from a flight, Hodapp said Tuesday.

The news release said Davis had piloted at least three uneventful flights Monday night before the crash.

Officials from the Bemidji Police Department, Minnesota State Patrol, Bemidji Fire Department, and Beltrami County First Responders also responded to the crash.

Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

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