Rapid City, SD
Organizers of a South Dakota robotics competition say three leaders of the group who died in a plane crash would have wanted the event to go on as scheduled.
Daniel Swets, Kevin Anderson and Joshua Lambrecht were passengers in a twin-engine Cessna airplane that crashed shortly after takeoff Friday in Sioux Falls. They were headed to Rapid City to work as volunteer officials for the youth Lego robotics league.
The event started Saturday with a practice session at a Rapid City elementary school.
"These men were an inspiration to all of us, and we felt they would want us to carry on," said Kurt Ronning, the west region coordinator for the South Dakota Lego robotics league. "This is in recognition of them."
Authorities are investigating the crash that killed Anderson, 50, and Swets, 47, both of Sioux Falls; Lambrecht, 30 of Brandon; and pilot Brian Blake, 54, also of Sioux Falls.
Adults leading the robotics competition told children who were participating about the deaths, but didn't dwell on the crash.
Swets, Anderson and Lambrecht worked with local coaches and organizers, but not the children.
"It is really sad. It's kind of a cloud over the competition. But I think for these kids, things still have to move on," said Susan Oleson, whose son is a member of a Rapid City Lego team. "Of course everyone here is thinking about the tragedy and has those families in our thoughts and prayers."
The competition features teams of students who build robots using Lego bricks. They use Lego software to program the robots to complete tasks on an obstacle course.
The event is organized by a national group, U.S. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).
Alan Swanson, a founder of the South Dakota FIRST Lego League, said Swets, Anderson and Lambrecht believed strongly in bringing science and technology to students.
"They were eager to do that across the state," Swanson said.