Aviation News

December 10, 2011

South Dakota Plane Crash Kills Educators Enroute to Robotics Competition

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By: BNO News
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Four people were killed Friday afternoon when a small plane crashed near an airport in South Dakota, federal officials said on Saturday. There were no survivors.

The accident happened at around 2:24 p.m. local time when a Cessna 421-C (N421SY), a small two-engine plane, crashed about a mile (1.6 km) east of Sioux Falls Regional Airport in Sioux Falls, the county seat of Minnehaha County. Four people were on board.

A firefighter walks passed the smoldering wreckage of the Cessna 421 (N421SY

A firefighter walks passed the smoldering wreckage of the Cessna 421 (N421SY). (Photo by Devin Wagner/Argus Leader)

According to FlightAware.com records, the plane had just taken off from Sioux Falls enroute to Rapid City Regional Airport in the western part of the state.

The Argus Leader reported that the three passengers were enroute to officiate a FIRST Lego League robotics competition. Dr. Daniel Swet, president of the South Dakota Robotics Association, was among the dead, along with league referee Joshua Lambrecht and Kevin Anderson, a Sioux Falls school official. The pilot, Brian Blake, also died.

FIRST Lego League features competitions encouraging middle school students to embrace science by building robots to perform specific tasks. It is a cooperative effort between FIRST, an educational organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen, and the makers of Legos.

Cell phone footage shot by witnesses shortly after the crash showed parts of the aircraft on fire, although most of the cabin appeared to be intact. By the time the fire had been extinguished by emergency services, only the aircraft’s tail was left.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said all four people on board the aircraft were killed. FAA records showed the 1975-built plane was registered to S & S Aviation, LLC out of Ipswich, South Dakota.

It was not immediately known what may have caused the accident, which occurred shortly after the plane took off from Joe Foss Field. “We’ll be starting an investigation,” Molinaro said. “However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be in charge of the investigation and we will be giving our information over to them.”