Here’s where the 2018 Christmas Day and other deadly South Dakota plane crash investigations stand Original
Another Person Confirmed Dead With Christmas Day Plane Crash

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on the deadly Chamberlain, South Dakota, plane crash this week.

There have been 173 deadly aviation crashes in South Dakota since the NTSB and its predecessor began tracking. Those crashes have lead to 307 deaths.

2019 will go down as the second deadliest year in the skies for South Dakota with 13 deaths from four crashes.

The only year higher was 1968, when six Rapid City High School cheerleaders died in a plane crash.

Another notable year was 1999, when golfer Payne Stewart and five others died in a plane crash near Aberdeen. The plane lost cabin pressure, incapacitating everyone on board. The flight from Florida ran out of fuel over South Dakota, leading to the crash.

2008 was the only year with no deadly plane crashes in the state since tracking began.

The common question after a plane crash is: What caused it?

The NTSB has a complex investigative process that usually takes more than a year to complete. Right now there are six deadly crashes in South Dakota that are still being investigated.

In a KELOLAND News analysis over the last 10 years of deadly crashes in South Dakota, the average time from the day of the crash to the final report being released is 479 days. The NTSB says that’s common and that it can usually take 12-24 months to determine a cause.

DateLocationProbable cause of crashStatus# of fatalities # of days after crash that final report was issued
11/30/19Chamberlain, SD N/A* Preliminary report Nine people died18 days and counting
10/9/19Aberdeen, SD N/A* Preliminary report One person died70 days and counting
9/8/19Lakeview, SD N/A* Preliminary report Two people died101 days and counting
1/13/19Salem, SD N/A*

NOTE: The NTSB did not come to S.D. due to a government shutdown. They are still investigating this crash.
Preliminary report One person died349 days and counting
12/25/18Sioux Falls, SD N/A*

NOTE: The NTSB did not come to S.D. due to a government shutdown. They are still investigating this crash.
Preliminary report Two people died358 days and counting
11/2/18Bradley, SD N/A* Preliminary reportOne person died411 days and counting
3/16/17Opal, SDUndeterminedFinal ReportOne person died607 days
9/2/16Viborg, SDPilot errorFinal ReportTwo people died334 days
6/7/16De Smet, SDPilot errorFinal ReportOne person died322 days
6/8/15Kadoka, SDPilot errorFinal ReportOne person died590 days
4/27/14Highmore, SDPilot error. A contributing factor was a wind turbine light not workingFinal ReportFour people died358 days
6/6/13Ludlow, SDPilot error and likely pilot fatigue Final Report One person died291 days
9/14/12Vermillion, SDPilot error Final Report One person died755 days
8/28/12Pierre, SDAircraft door open and pilot loss of control Final Report One person died183 days
12/9/11Sioux Falls, SDPilot error Final Report Four people died488 days
11/11/11Sturgis, SDPilot error (student pilot) Final Report One person died 362 days
10/1/11Phillip, SDRotor blade separated from helicopter due to mechanical damage Final Report One person died 922 days
8/20/11Whitewood, SDUndetermined Final Report One person died 275 days
7/2/11Hayti, SDPilot error Final Report Three people died1,047 days
6/17/11Highmore, SDPilot error Final Report One person died 321 days
7/24/10Spearfish, SDLoss of engine power due to lack of fuel/Pilot improper fuel managementFinal Report One person died299 days
7/23/10Tea, SDLoss of engine power for undetermined reasonFinal Report One person died300 days
5/29/10Watertown, SDPilot error and pilot impairment due to alcoholFinal ReportTwo people died692 days

*Probable cause not released until final report comes out

The independent investigative agency normally announces a few weeks in advance of an upcoming probable cause release. Currently, none of the six deadly crashes are scheduled for release.

However, there is a report from a nonfatal South Dakota crash from four and a half years ago that will be released in January.

The records show that nonfatal crashes have come down since the middle of the twentieth century in South Dakota.

There have been more than 850 recorded nonfatal crashes or serious incidents in South Dakota.

Rowena Tower collapse
KELOLAND Media Group archives

A notable nonfatal crash is part of KELOLAND history. In the summer of 1968, a North Central airliner clipped a guide wire on the KELO-TV tower. Luckily, the plane landed safely with no injuries. KELO was not so lucky. The tower was destroyed. KELO engineers had the station back on the air in three days operating from the old 1,000-foot tower near Shindler.

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