Chanhassen, Minn. family injured in New Mexico plane crash - KMSP-TV

Chanhassen, Minn. family injured in New Mexico plane crash

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Jim and Beth Fretham of Chanhassen Minn. and their 2 daughters were in a plane that crashed in Las Vegas, New Mexico Jim and Beth Fretham of Chanhassen Minn. and their 2 daughters were in a plane that crashed in Las Vegas, New Mexico
CHANHASSEN, Minn. (KMSP) -

A Twin Cities family's vacation took a nightmarish turn when their privately-owned, single-engine plane that had stopped in Ames, Iowa, crashed while trying to land at a northern New Mexico airport, injuring all four people on the plane.

The plane crashed Wednesday around 6:30 p.m. at the Las Vegas airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said. Lunsford added the pilot was hospitalized in critical condition while the three passengers on the plane suffered less serious injuries.

Las Vegas police identified the pilot as 50-year-old James Fretham. FAA records showed the plane was registered to him and listed an address for him in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Police identified the passengers as 49-year-old Elizabeth Fretham, 15-year-old Grace Fretham and 21-year-old Caitrin Fretham.

Tommy Huffman told Fox 9 News he has fond memories of his former next-door neighbors, but hearing what happened to the Fretham family during a vacation doesn't paint a very pretty picture.

"Obviously, very sad," he said. "Just got off the phone with Beth a little while ago. His back is all broken up. He has several broken ribs, kneecap is broken -- just in very bad shape."

Family members told Fox 9 News that Jim and Beth Fretham had taken off with their teenage daughter in the single-engine Cessna and stopped off in Ames, Iowa, to pick up their oldest daughter from college. They were on their way to spend a few days in Los Angeles when they tried to land at an unmanned airport in Las Vegas, New Mexico, to refuel. According to Huffman, that's when something went terribly wrong. 

"My understanding of what happened is: They were coming down, it was cloudy, and there was a work truck in the runway. He pulled up to try to avoid the work truck, and one of the wings caught the ground."

Huffman said Jim Fretham suffered several spinal injuries and may never walk again. Incredibly, however, his wife and daughters only suffered minor injuries and were treated and released from a Santa Fe hospital. Family members say he had just gotten his pilot's license a few years ago, and had traded his big RV for a plane so he could take vacations with his family.

Fretham had been scheduled for surgery Monday or Tuesday, but the surgery was moved up to July 4.

CARINGBRIDGE: Jim Fretham

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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