Duluth man killed in plane crash was flying to Moorhead to visit his parents

By Wendy Reuer / The Forum - HAWLEY, Minn. - Roz Randorf didn't worry about her long-term boyfriend Kevin Ferris piloting small planes from their Duluth, Minn., home to their hometown of Moorhead. But Friday afternoon, she got the call she least ...

Clay County officials gather near the site of a plane crash
Kevin Ferris, a Duluth, Minn., pilot who died in a crash near Hawley, Minn., Friday is shown with his son, Simon.

By Wendy Reuer / The Forum - 

HAWLEY, Minn. – Roz Randorf didn’t worry about her long-term boyfriend Kevin Ferris piloting small planes from their Duluth, Minn., home to their hometown of Moorhead.

But Friday afternoon, she got the call she least expected.

Friends at Twin Ports Aviation in Superior, Wis., told her Ferris’ plane was missing. He had taken to the skies from Superior around 9 a.m. en route to Moorhead to see his parents on Easter weekend.

The 48-year-old Ferris, best known in the Duluth area as “The Rose Man,” never arrived. He was found dead by Clay County authorities Friday after his airplane crashed about four miles south of Hawley.


“You kiss him goodbye and you don’t think you won’t see him again,” Randorf said Friday night as she drove to Moorhead, where both her and Ferris lived until moving to Duluth seven years ago.

His family last heard from him when he was flying over Park Rapids, about 60 miles east of Hawley and 150 miles west of Superior, Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.

The last contact of any sort with Ferris was made around 10:15 a.m. near Detroit Lakes, Randorf said.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Department began helping with a search for the missing plane when the first call came in around 12:30 p.m., Bergquist said.

Bergquist said a search plane spotted the wreckage from the air about 4:15 p.m.

Randorf said she had taken the day off work to man The Rose Man, a Duluth flower shop the couple bought in April 2011.

After she learned wreckage was located, Randorf began the long drive to Moorhead with her two sons, staying in constant contact with Ferris’ mother, Margaret, and hoping rescuers would find Ferris alive in the meantime.

She received a call from the sheriff’s office after searchers located the single-engine, two-seat Cessna on the ground.


Bergquist speculated that Ferris may have tried to land the plane because of the fog. Fog also complicated search efforts, he said, as the aerial search didn’t start until mid-afternoon. The crash site was difficult to see from nearby roads.

Ferris and Randorf are graduates of Moorhead High School and Minnesota State University Moorhead. The couple has a 10-year-old son, Simon Randorf, together. Ferris is also the father of Michael Ferris, 23, and Brandon Ferris, 20. He is also a stepfather to Roz’s 21-year-old son, Spencer Pitzel.

After working 25 years at KXJB-TV in Fargo, Randorf and Ferris moved to Duluth in 2006. Randorf is the advertising director at the Duluth News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co., as is The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

Randorf said Ferris had always wanted to be a pilot and began flying two years ago after learning to fly at Twin Ports Aviation, the same company he rented the plane from on Friday.

“He wishes he would have started flying earlier in life,” Randorf said.

She said the couple usually made the drive together back to Moorhead but the short plane trip between Duluth and Moorhead was an appealing reason for Ferris to learn to fly.

Randorf said she had never worried about Ferris in the air.

“He was a good pilot. He took it seriously, he understood how to route a flight plan. He was very conscientious. He wasn’t foolish when it came to the mechanics,” she said.


Friday morning, nothing struck Randorf as out of the ordinary. The couple had joked together about Randorf working at the shop for Ferris. She said Ferris kissed her goodbye as he usually does and she expected to see him on Sunday. The family had Easter buffet reservations at the Superior airport.

“It’s a traditional freak accident. It changes your whole life,” she said.

Randorf said Ferris will be remembered for his kindness and gentle touch that reached far past his corner rose shop.

“He was a great businessman. We were increasing sales at the shop,” Randorf said. “(He was) a real gentleman, very giving.”

Bergquist said investigators will likely be on the scene of the crash site again today. Authorities did not officially identify Ferris on Friday as the victim of the crash.

Funeral arrangements are pending.


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