Precision Lens Founder Dies in Vintage Airplane Crash

He was piloting the plane.

Precision Lens Founder Paul Ehlen pictured in a vintage plane.
Precision Lens Founder Paul Ehlen pictured in a vintage plane.
Precision Lens

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) β€” The founder of the Minnesota-based medical products company Precision Lens died when a vintage plane crashed shortly after takeoff at an airport in Montana.

Paul Ehlen was piloting the plane that went down at 8:07 a.m. Tuesday at the Ravalli County Airport, the company's chief financial officer, Bill Henneman, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. The aircraft was a World War II vintage P-40E registered with the Federal Aviation Administration to one of Ehlen's LLCs.

"Precision Lens is saddened by the passing earlier today of its founder Paul Ehlen," the company said in a statement. "Paul had a passion for restoring and flying vintage military aircraft, and he was killed this morning when the single-engine P-40 he was flying back to Minneapolis suffered a mechanical failure on takeoff."

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, authorities said.

Ehlen was alone on the plane and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a news release from the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office. The airport is in Hamilton, Montana, near Missoula, where Ehlen had a home.

Precision Lens is based in Bloomington, Minnesota.

In February, a federal jury found Ehlen and his Cameron-Ehlen Group Inc., which does business as Precision Lens, violated the federal anti-kickback statute and False Claims Act. A judge ordered damages of $487 million. The company said at the time that it planned to appeal.

Prosecutors at the trial said Precision Lens paid eye surgeons through luxury ski vacations and trips to exclusive sporting events to induce them to use their products in cataracts surgeries that were reimbursed by Medicare.

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