WASILLA -- A Wasilla pilot with a young family and a growing air taxi business died Tuesday afternoon in a plane crash in northwest Montana near Flathead Lake.
Brett Thoft, 33, was flying a two-seater tandem Piper Super Cub with friend Tim Schauss when the crash occurred, according to Lake County authorities in Montana. Thoft was pronounced dead at the site. Schauss, who owns a grocery store in Pablo, was listed in critical condition at Kalispell Regional Medical Center on Wednesday.
Residents in the area dotted with farms and ranches said they saw the small plane crash into a hillside around 4:30 p.m., said Lake County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Karen Sargeant. Locals on four-wheelers helped rescuers find the crash site, which was in rugged terrain. Some responders knew at least one of the men.
Thoft and Lake County resident Schauss were on a "casual flightseeing trip" when the plane crashed, Sargeant said. Portland, Ore.-based investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were en route to the crash site on Wednesday afternoon.
Schauss made one of the 911 calls about the crash and never lost consciousness, according to a friend of his in Montana.
Thoft attended high school and college in Montana and still has family there, a friend said.
Thoft had a wife and two young daughters, whom he featured prominently on his company website.
Thoft owned and operated Full Curl Aviation LLC, a Wasilla-based air taxi service. He spent summers in the Brooks Range ferrying hunters, rafters, and adventurers in and out of a temporary camp at Happy Valley, according to his company website.
Before he started the business, he worked for Bob Summers at Deltana Outfitters as a Happy Valley-based guide and pilot.
Summers said he was shocked when he heard Wednesday morning that Thoft had crashed.
"He was an exceptional pilot. I spent a lot of time in the plane with him," Summers said. "He was exceptional in every sense of the word. He was a legend in the making."