ABERDEEN, S.D. — After a nearly two-week search, authorities have confirmed the identity of a pilot who died in an airplane crash after his plane went missing on Oct. 9.
The Brown County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the body of Gerald Seliski, 70, of rural Hecla, S.D., was found in the wreckage of a small, single-engine plane discovered about 3 miles north of Aberdeen Monday evening, Oct. 21.
Seliski is listed in Federal Aviation Administration records as the owner of the aircraft, though authorities until this point did not confirm whether it was Seliski who was flying the plane, which was believed to have taken off from the Aberdeen Regional Airport some time between 10 and 10:30 p.m. Oct. 9.
Emergency management officials in Brown County said the plane was bound for Oakes, N.D., about 50 miles northeast of Aberdeen. The sheriff’s office said Seliski, who according to FAA records had a student flying certificate, was flying alone.
Officials in Oakes confirmed Seliski had a hangar at the city’s airport, which airport service provider Bear Creek Flying Service said he visited a few times a year.
Aberdeen Regional Airport Transportation Director Rich Krokel said he spoke with Seliski on Oct. 8, asking him to move his plane in anticipation of a coming snowstorm. Seliski declined to move his plane when asked.
Conditions at the airport were less than ideal for flying at the time authorities believe Seliski took off, according to Krokel, who said it was misting outside and that the temperature was in the 30s and falling.
Krokel said, to his knowledge, Seliski did not file a flight plan and did not announce he was leaving. The plane was first discovered missing by a woman who works a late shift at the airport and performs a nightly runway check, he said.
After the plane was reported missing, authorities mounted a search effort starting Oct. 10, enlisting the aid of Civil Air Patrol planes and Air Force helicopters.
After more than a week of searching, the Aberdeen American News reported Friday that the sheriff's office planned to suspend search efforts. But just after 6 p.m. Monday, a hunter discovered the wreckage of Seliski’s blue and white Cessna 172.
An autopsy is planned Wednesday in Grand Forks. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA were notified that the plane was found and will take over the investigation, the sheriff’s office said.