Family of pilot killed in Minnesota cropduster crash says he died doing what he loved

CLARA CITY, Minn. — Even after his passing, a western Minnesota veteran is having a big impact on others.

Thirty-four-year-old Derek DuHoux died last week, nine days after the cropduster plane he was flying crashed near the town of Clara City. But as John Lauritsen shows us, Derek’s memory lives on in more ways than one.

“You don’t realize the impact your children make on people’s lives until tragedy happens,” said mother Rachel DuHoux.  At a young age, Derek knew two things. He wanted to be a pilot and he wanted to be in the military.

“Always. Ever since he was little,” Rachel said. “He was talking about it already in kindergarten.”

Derek, whose nickname was “Hooty,” even missed his senior prom because of military training, so one of his best friends attached Derek’s picture to his tuxedo.

He was awarded numerous military medals, and flew Apache helicopters in Afghanistan. One particular combat mission led to an emergency landing.

“It was basically pretty shot up, the helicopter,” Rachel said. “They never were able to use it again.”

From serving his country to serving his community. When Derek moved back to Clara City, he became a first responder and flew crop duster planes with help from his brother Eli — even though he knew the job was dangerous.

“Every time you could see him take off out of the hangar you’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s my brother,'” Eli said.

But on July 25, Derek’s plane hit a power line and he crashed in a cornfield. Nine days later, the decorated veteran died from his injuries.

Derek knew the job was dangerous, but flying was his passion. And his family says he just couldn’t see himself doing anything else.

“He always would say that. He said If something happens to me, you know, if I’m deployed or anything, he said just know that I died doing something I loved,” Rachel said.

“I was telling some of my friends, they said, ‘It’s weird how a power line can take him out and not over in Afghanistan,'” Eli said.

Still, in many ways, Derek lives on. He was an organ donor, and so far four of his major organs are already helping other people.

“This community has surrounded us with so much love,” Rachel said. “We just want people to remember him as a small-town hero, because he really was.”

The family says Rachel and Derek’s dad John, along with his biological mom Gail and her husband Dave, want to thank the entire town of Clara City and everyone who has reached out. The local hardware store is giving away green porch lights to anyone who makes a military donation.

Source: CBS Minnesota  By John Lauritsen