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70-year old Gaylen Knaack is the owner and pilot of the small plane that crashed just after eight p.m. off of highway 31 in Correctionville, Iowa.
While he suffered extreme smoke inhalation and was badly burned in the crash, he is alive. The two-others flying with him, 55-year old Jim Smith and 53-year old Lee Schroeder, did not make it.
Jim Smith of Correctionville and Lee Schroeder of Anthon will both be remembered as great men who were always there to help those in need, said one friend and co-worker, Mike Smith.
"Both men will be greatly missed by folks in this community and their communities also," he said.
Mike Smith knew both men through a project they were all working on together. That project was to build a new Correctionville grocery story to replace the one that was destroyed by a fire a few years back.
Jim smith was a trucker who hauled equipment for the store and Lee Schroeder was an electrician who recently joined the team.
Knaack, a very close friend to Mike Smith, was also on the committee to help build the store. Together, the four-men worked day and night spending quite a bit of their time together.
"In 30-days it's hard to know somebody but you do, because you talk to them all day long while you are working and you get to know somebody fairly well." said Smith.
Saturday night's flight was a work-related flight. Gaylen and Lee were picking up Jim from Grand Island, Nebraska where he had just dropped off a truck. Mike believes that the patches of dense fog Siouxland saw that night was the cause of the crash.
Gaylen has been hospitalized for smoke inhalation and severe 2nd to 3rd degree burns on nearly half his body. And as for the grocery store, Mike Smith said they hope to finish the project in a little over a month.
"We just have to keep going from here, I don't believe that either one of the three would want us to quit for any reason," said Smith.
Gaylen was transferred from Mercy Medical Center to Saint Elizabeth Burn Center in Lincoln, Neb. where he is currently being treated for his burns.