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Pilot killed in Afghanistan has ties to Minnesota

Randy and Pam Bergquist met and fell in love while Randy was working for Alexandra Aviation as a flight instructor in the 1980s. Randy Bergquist was a Minnesota native and a former drug interdiction officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Contributed photo

A civilian pilot who died in a plane crash while on a counter-terrorism mission over the mountains of Afghanistan on October 13 has ties to the Douglas County area.

Randy Bergquist was working for Lockheed Martin contractors on NATO surveillance when his plane crashed in the Nuristan province, a stronghold of Taliban insurgents.

Bergquist, 53, was a charter pilot and flight instructor for Alexandria Aviation in the 1980s. He met his future wife, Pam, while he was working there. She was one of his students.

His body was among three found this week in the wreckage of an Army reconnaissance twin-engine turbo-prop C-12 Huron. The other victims were a co-pilot and a technician.

In a statement, NATO said the incident is "under investigation though hostile action is not believed to be the cause of the crash."

A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin confirmed that the three who were killed were American citizens working for the corporation's subcontractors for "counter-narco-terrorism" operations.

Al Bennewitz, a long-time manager of the Alexandria Airport, remembers working with Bergquist, who was born in Bemidji and graduated from Princeton High School.

"He was always adventurous and had a great personality - friendly," Bennewitz said when contacted Wednesday by the Echo Press. "And he was an excellent pilot."

The Bergquists were married in 1982 and they moved to Florida in 1987. Randy Bergquist worked for the U.S. Customs, flying fixed-wing planes on drug surveillance and interdiction missions.

After he retired, Bergquist worked for Avenge, Inc., which provides government and military flight operations.

Bergquist started flying in Afghanistan in 2007. He was on his third tour of the hostile country.

Pam Bergquist, in a Star Tribune story, said: "One of my best friends said, 'Randy you get out of there' and he said, 'No, we can't let the bad guys win.' He seemed to get to people at a time when people needed someone like him. You just broke the mold with him."

In addition to his wife and son, Matt, Bergquist is survived by his mother, Ruby of Bagley, a sister, Penny of Sauk Rapids, and a brother, Mike Happie of Princeton.

He was preceded in death by his father, Edmond, and sister, Cathy Rae.

A memorial service will take place at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Henning on November 7 at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: The Miracle League of the Triangle, P.O. Box 4193, Cary, NC 27519.