On Nov. 30, 2019, a Pilatus PC-12 plane crashed in Brule County, South Dakota, killing nine people. The deceased victims represented four generations of a prominent Idaho Falls family and included two children. Three family members who survived the South Dakota plane crash were taken to an area hospital.
The Swiss-made single-engine Pilatus PC-12 plane departed from Chamberlain Municipal Airport in South Dakota just before noon, bound for Idaho Falls Regional Airport. Moments after takeoff, the plane crashed in a cornfield roughly one mile from the airport. At the time of departure, officials said there was a winter storm warning in place. Snow was falling in the area at up to an inch per hour with heavy wind gusts.
It remains unclear whether the winter storm conditions played a role in the South Dakota plane crash.
Pilatus Plane Crash Victims Identified as Brothers Kirk and Jim Hansen, Founders of the Health and Wellness Company Kyäni
Brothers Kirk and Jim Hansen, founders of the health and wellness company Kyäni, were traveling back home from a hunting trip to South Dakota with several family members when they lost their lives in the fatal crash. According to local media, Kirk was a licensed pilot.
In addition to their roles at Kyäni, the brothers were also executives at Conrad & Bischoff, a petroleum products distributor, and KJ’s Super Stores. Kirk and Jim also served in prominent positions with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The other reported fatalities include the Hansen brothers’ father, Jim Hansen Sr.; Jim Hansen Jr.’s son, Jake, and Jake’s son, Houston; Kirk Hansen’s sons, Logan and Stockton, and sons-in-law, Kyle Naylor and Tyson Dennert. The deceased victims’ ages ranged from 7 to 81 years old.
Kirk Hansen’s son, Josh, survived the crash, as did Jim’s son, Matt, and son-in-law, Thomas Long. All three were listed in stable condition at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in the days following the Pilatus PC-12 plane crash.
Loss of Hansen Family a “Total Tragedy” for Idaho Community
By all accounts, Jim Hansen Sr. instilled business savvy and hard work in his family, and most especially in his two sons. Hansen Sr. purchased Conrad & Bischoff in 1974. As a teen, Kirk Hansen started working at the family business as a long-distance truck driver.
Kirk and his brother Jim Jr. went on to attend Brigham Young University – Idaho, then joined their father’s company. Together, the Hansens expanded Conrad & Bischoff to include gas stations across four states. The brothers later went on to found Kyäni in 2007, employing several family members. Kyäni had a charitable arm of the company that built schools in numerous foreign countries.
Those who knew the Hansens recall how charitable and generous they were. Brian Wood, the owner of a local funeral home, posted a memory of the brothers on Facebook, recalling how Jim Jr. and Kirk would ask if there were families in the area struggling to pay for funeral arrangements. According to Wood, the Hansen brothers would offer to help pay funeral expenses for those who needed it.
What Caused the Pilatus PC-12 Registered to Conrad & Bischoff Inc. to Crash in South Dakota?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) dispatched a team to South Dakota to conduct a plane crash investigation. The team will issue a preliminary accident report in December. A final report detailing the official cause(s) of the small plane crash in South Dakota could take a year or more to complete.
One question that will need to be answered is why the plane was permitted to take off amid heavy snow conditions with wind gusts reaching 45 miles-per-hour. Brule County Emergency Manager Katheryn Benton said she believes a “combination of several weather factors” contributed to the fatal crash.
While the weather conditions will certainly be scrutinized, the NTSB will also be looking at the flight data, the actions of the pilot, and the downed Pilatus PC-12’s history and maintenance records for any anomalies.
According to FlightAware, the downed Pilatus PC-12 was registered to Conrad & Bischoff Inc.
The South Dakota plane crash over Thanksgiving weekend was the deadliest civilian crash in the state’s history (another general aviation plane crash in 1968 also killed nine people), per NTSB records.
Pilot Given OK to Fly Despite Limited Visibility
According to a press release from the NTSB two days after the fatal plane crash in South Dakota, the pilot was cleared for departure from Chamberlain Municipal Airport despite limited visibility. An official from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pointed out that small planes are not usually prevented from departing amid storms and that pilots are “the ultimate authority” for deciding whether or not to fly.
Chamberlain City Engineer Greg Powell said the airport had issued two notices about ice and snow on the runway the day of the crash.
Weather conditions at Chamberlain Municipal Airport at the time of the crash (per NTSB): winds at seven miles per hour, half-mile visibility with moderate snow and icing, low-level wind shear, and clear air turbulence conditions with overcast skies.