DELAFIELD, Wis. — A plane carrying three people and over 50 dogs crashed onto the Western Lakes Golf Club course in this town about 30 minutes west of Milwaukee on Tuesday morning.
Lake Country Fire & Rescue responded to a call of a downed aircraft around 9:04 a.m., according to Assistant Chief Matthew Haerter. The first unit arrived five minutes later to find a twin-engine plane on the third hole as heavy snow conditions hit the area. The course is at W287 N1963 Oakton Road.
Club General Manager Jason Hoelz told the Journal Sentinel that a few staff members were performing maintenance on the course a few hundred feet away when they heard and saw the plane coming down.
“I was in a building up here and didn’t hear anything, but there was a couple employees working on the course that heard this plane coming down and witnessed it hitting the fifth green, crashing between two trees, (going) through a marsh and another 100 feet through the second hole fairway and onto the third hole, where it uprooted another tree and came to a rest,” Hoelz said. “In total, it skidded around a few hundred yards.”
The wings of the plane reportedly came off on the fifth hole where it initially struck the ground, which caused what fuel was in the plane to spill onto the course and part of a marshland water feature. The plane can hold up to 300 gallons of jet fuel. It is unclear at this time how much spilled or the impact it had on the wetland.
“I’m just happy we were able to help any way we could and glad we were on scene quickly and were able to provide some assistance,” Hoelz said.
The plane was reportedly flying from New Orleans to Waukesha to deliver 53 dogs to the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha. Three adults were also on the plane and were assessed and treated at the scene before being taken to a local trauma center with non-life-threatening injuries.
Immediately after the crash, Hoelz said that his staff jumped into action. They pulled the three passengers from the plane and also gathered the dogs in their crates. Some crates were damaged, but the staff were able to round up the dogs and all were brought to the maintenance building until HAWS arrived.
Some of the 53 dogs sustained minor injuries like “bumps and scrapes that will be monitored over the next couple of days but are expected to be good to go and ready for adoption as scheduled”, according to HAWS Director of Organizational Development Maggie Tate-Techtmann.
Because HAWS was preparing to receive the dogs at the Waukesha County Airport, they were there quickly to collect and treat them on scene before treating them at HAWS.
Twenty dogs remain at HAWS while the rest were sent to other shelters as planned.
“All are doing remarkably well,” Tate-Techtmann told the Journal Sentinel. “We are so grateful to the staff at Western Lakes Golf Club who were wonderful to work with and for the emergency response teams in Waukesha and for our team and how they responded. Everyone pivoted so well. I tell them all the time to be prepared for the unexpected, and the team did a remarkable job meeting the needs of these dogs today. Some are already out having fun in the snow and are on the road to finding their forever homes.”
The Department of Natural Resources and the Waukesha County Hazmat are on the scene assessing the extent of the fuel spill because it involves a wetland area. No other information was available Tuesday morning on the extent of the spill, but there is not believed to be any danger to the community at this time. Hoelz said the DNR is assessing what reclamation efforts might be needed for the wetland.
Additionally, Haerter praised the efforts of the golf club staff who reported the crash and assisted the passengers on the plane and first responders upon arrival.
It is unclear what caused the plane to go down. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.
Damage is still being assessed by the club. Damage is believed to have been done on the fifth green, second fairway and other parts of the course. However, Hoelz said if the weather turns nice again, the club will likely reopen again this season.
“There were over 200 golfers here last Thursday,” Hoelz said. “A week ago, it would’ve crashed onto golf holes that people were playing on. It could’ve been bad.”
Additionally, HAWS has started a fundraiser for the “at-risk adoptable dogs from the southern shelters.” Tate-Techtmann said all funds will go toward treating the dogs’ injuries and care while at the shelter.
“All the animals were triaged at HAWS by staff veterinarians. Some remain at HAWS while others went to our partner shelters. All are expected to be placed up for adoption as planned in the coming days,” according to the fundraiser post.
Drew Dawson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-289-1324.