SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Wednesday marked 30 years since South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson died in a plane crash.
On April 19, 1993, a plane carrying Governor Mickelson and seven others crashed after hitting a silo in Iowa and landing in a field. From the crash itself to the memorial service, it drew attention from those in the state and beyond.
Mickelson was elected governor in 1986 and attributed his victory to one thing.
“I just flat worked hard and I really did,” Mickelson said during his victory speech.
In April of 1993, Mickelson, other state leaders and members of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation stuck to that saying while on an “economic development mission” fighting to retain the state’s largest agricultural processing employer, John Morrell.
On the flight back home, tragedy struck. The plane crash happened near Dubuque, Iowa.
“I just seen a big flame go up in the air, you know, a huge flame and I never heard anything. I just seen the flames go up. I didn’t even realize it was a plane,” a witness said.
People across the region were in disbelief.
“The impact really hasn’t set in yet, and I think that can be said of the entire state. The people just can’t believe anything so tragic could happen so quickly,” a Brookings resident and friend of Mickelson said.
A story by former KELOLAND News reporter, Vernon Brown, came the next day from Pierre.
“There’s a heavy hallow feeling in the halls of the South Dakota State Capitol today. The governor’s staff and cabinet members consoled each other this morning in their first meeting since their leader’s death,” Brown said in the story.
“I think we’re all just kind of in limbo. We guess it happened, and we’re not denying it, but we just can’t accept it yet,” a governor staff member said.
That same day, lieutenant governor Walter Dale Miller was sworn in as the state’s top leader.
“Yesterday, our friends and our governor was taken away from us,” Dale Miller said.
Later that week, friends, family and fellow politicians gathered at the State Capitol for Mickelson’s memorial service.
“What you see is what you get. And I tell you with George Mickelson, we all got a very great deal indeed,” former Colorado governor Roy Romer said.
It was a somber moment as Mickelson was taken from the capitol building and laid to rest.
An event was held Wednesday at the Sioux Falls Development Foundation to commemorate the 30-year anniversary.
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul Tenhaken also proclaimed Wednesday as “Economic Development Leadership Day” to honor all those that died aboard that plane.