A DNR pilot from Appleton was killed Wednesday, when his airplane crashed in a Wood County farm field. The accident happened at 2:30 p.m., as the plane was spotting local crews on the ground battling a grass fire. DNR spokesman Ed Culhane said 36-year-old Heath Van Handel was killed when his aircraft went down in a field about 12 miles southwest of Marshfield.
Culhane said Van Handel was a former commercial pilot, and worked as a flight instructor at Kansas State University before coming to Wisconsin. He was flying a state-owned Cessna Skymaster 337 when he responded to the Wood County fire from a hangar in Necedah. The agency usually keeps airplanes stationed in Oshkosh, Eau Claire and Siren in northwest Wisconsin.
Wednesday's plane crash was the first that veteran DNR officials could remember in their long histories with the agency.