Deadly Plane Crash Kills Robotics Enthusiasts And Pilot In Sioux Falls


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Deadly Plane Crash Kills Robotics Enthusiasts And Pilot In Sioux Falls

By Jim Douglas

December 10, 2011 - On Friday three passengers and a pilot departed Sioux Falls Regional Airport (Joe Foss Field) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on a charted flight in a Cessna 421C, N421SY which was owned by S & S Aviation LLC. Just after takeoff the aircraft crashed about one mile west of the airport killing all onboard.  

Tony Molinaro a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman reported the Cessna 421C had departed Sioux Falls Regional Airport at about 2:24 PM for Rapid City Regional (KRAP). Just after takeoff the pilot began experiencing engine problems and circled back to the airport when it slammed into the ground, burst into fire killing all onboard.  

The impact was so great officials said no one could have survived the crash. Sioux Falls Fire Chief Jim Sideras said ?Right now, it?s a shell of a plane. It?s essentially just a charred area right now. That amount of fire is not survivable.? 

Authorities identify victims as pilot Brian Blake, 54, of Sioux Falls, he was a charter pilot and manager for Quest Aviation. Blake also served in the Air National Guard and the Civil Air Patrol. Jerry Foy, commander of the Sioux Falls Civil Air Patrol called Blake a ?soft-spoken gentleman.? The passengers were Kevin Anderson, 50, of Sioux Falls; Joshua Lambrecht, 30, of Brandon; and Daniel Swets, 47, of Sioux Falls. 

The charted flight was to take Daniel Swets to Rapid City for a robotics (FIRST Lego League) practice competition. Swets was a computer science associate professor at Augustana College in Sioux Falls and president of the South Dakota Robotics Association. Kevin Anderson an alumnus of the school was a staff member for the Sioux Falls School District. Joshua Lambrecht, worked at Dakota Fluid Power in Sioux Falls and was head referee for the LEGO League.

Professor Dan Swets, computer science at Augustana, interacting with students

The Sioux Falls School District issued a statement: ?The Sioux Falls School District family is devastated by the tragic news of today?s plane crash. Kevin Anderson loved his work as a computer programmer, but he loved his family even more. His love for his son is what drove Kevin to become involved in the First Lego League an academic enrichment experience that teaches middle school students how to build and program robots for competition. Kevin served the district for 23 years with a friendly, can-do attitude at every turn. His family, his student team, and his district colleagues lost an incredible champion for kids.?

At 1422, the FSD Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) issued a takeoff clearance to the accident flight. About 30 seconds later, the controller informed the pilot that a smoke plume was visible behind the airplane; however, the controller could not determine exactly from where on the airplane the smoke was coming. The controller subsequently advised the pilot that it looked like the smoke had stopped. At 1424, the controller cleared the flight to land. No communications were received from the pilot after he acknowledged the takeoff clearance. 

Witnesses reported that the airplane appeared to be trailing white smoke from the area of the left engine during takeoff from runway 33. They subsequently observed flames at the inboard side of the left engine. The airplane began a left turn, apparently in an attempt to return to the airport. As the airplane continued the turn, the flames and trail of white smoke were no longer visible. When the airplane reached a south heading, the nose dropped abruptly and it impacted the ground from an altitude of 800 to 1,000 feet above ground level. They stated that they heard the engine sound increase prior to impact. A postimpact fire ensued. 

The airplane impacted an open field about 3/4 mile northwest of the airport. It came to rest upright, with the empennage separated from the aft fuselage. The empennage was in relative position adjacent to the aft fuselage. The fuselage and empennage were oriented on approximate magnetic headings of 078 degrees 151 degrees, respectively. A scorched area about 230 feet long by 40 feet wide emanated from the fuselage oriented approximately 120 degrees. 

All major airframe components were located at the accident site. The fuselage and wings were damaged by the postimpact fire. Both the left and right engines remained attached to the airframe. The right propeller hub was fractured and all three propeller blades had separated. One blade was embedded into the ground adjacent to the right horizontal stabilizer. The remaining two blades were located in the debris field about 140 feet and 300 feet from the right engine, respectively. The left propeller hub was also fractured. One propeller blade had separated from the hub and was located under the left engine. The other two blades remained attached to the propeller hub. Teardown examinations of both engines are pending.

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