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NTSB confirms bird strike caused fatal plane crash

A bird strike had long been the suspected cause of the airplane crash that killed 20-year-old Adam Ostapenko of Duluth and his flight instructor in October 2007.

When found, the twin-engine Piper Seminole's left wing had a large dent and the tail section had another dent. In addition, goose remains were found.

This week the National Transportation Safety Board made it official.

The NTSB's probable cause report, dated Sunday, says the airplane hit at least one Canada goose. The NTSB says the collision "caused the airplane to be uncontrollable," according to the Associated Press

Ostapenko and instructor Annette Klosterman, 22, of Seattle died when the plane crashed in a swampy area in central Minnesota on Oct. 23, 2007. The crash occurred about 20 miles northwest of Little Falls, Minn.

The two were on a routine training flight from St. Paul to Grand Rapids. The NTSB says the night flight contributed to the crash because the pilots could not have seen the goose.

The final report confirms that the two pilots were following their training and the information they had, Ostapenko's parents, Duluth attorney Nicholas Ostapenko and his wife, Joan, said in a statement Friday.

"We also know that the crash was not due to pilot error and that Adam and Annette could not have altered the outcome," they wrote. "In addition, we know that two wonderful people who will always be loved and missed are now and forever gone from this earth."

Adam Ostapenko, a 2005 Duluth East high school graduate, was completing his third year as an aviation student at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks when the crash occurred. He had earned his private pilot's license and had logged in more than 200 hours.

His instructors described him as a good student who always strove to excel, a pilot's pilot and an all-around great guy. His interest in aviation had begun early. As a boy, he would make models of every airplane he could find, his mother said shortly after his death.

"He was just so happy when he was flying," she said then.

In their Friday statement, she and her husband said they were "richly blessed" to be his parents.

"He is now in God's keeping," they wrote. "The memories of our life together will continue to be among our greatest joys -- and his loss, our greatest sorrow."