New details of plane crash that killed nine Idaho family members

Posted at 3:35 PM, Dec 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-02 17:35:22-05

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — The National Transportation Safety Board released more details Monday about its investigation into Saturday’s fatal crash of a Pilatus PC-12 airplane in Chamberlain, South Dakota.

Of the twelve occupants in the plane, brothers Jim and Kirk Hansen, who founded the eastern Idaho-based nutritional and wellness products company Kyani, were killed in the crash, along with seven other male family members. Kirk's son, Josh, and Jim's son, Matt, and son-in-law Thomas Long survived. They are listed in stable condition.

According to an NTSB release, the crash occurred at about 12:30 p.m. CST shortly after the plane’s departure from Chamberlain Municipal Airport.

“The pilot and passengers arrived in Chamberlain on Friday, Nov. 29 at about 9:30 a.m. CST for an annual pheasant hunting trip. Shortly after arrival, the pilot purchased 150 gallons of Jet A fuel from an automated fuel pump. The airplane remained parked on the airport ramp until the accident flight on Nov. 30,” the release said.

The pilot filed an instrument flight rules plan with the Federal Aviation Administration and received a clearance to fly direct from Chamberlain, a non-towered airport, to Idaho Falls, with a planned departure time of 12:20 p.m. CST. The plane departed Chamberlain at 12:26 p.m. CST. “When the pilot did not activate the flight plan after departure, the FAA issued an alert for a missing airplane,” the release said.

An automated weather observation station at the Chamberlain airport recorded the wind was blowing about 7 mph, there was about a quarter-mile visibility with moderate snow and icing, low-level windshear, and clear air turbulence conditions with overcast skies. The base of the cloud layer was recorded at 500 feet above the ground.

The airplane crashed in a field about one mile north of the airport. The Pilatus PC-12 airplane is not required to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder, the NTSB said.

Three NTSB investigators arrived at the accident site Monday afternoon, after being delayed by inclement weather. Over the coming days, they will work on documenting the airplane and wreckage pattern, examining its systems, flight controls, and engine. In addition, any witnesses to the crash will be interviewed. Interviews with the surviving passengers will also be conducted.

Investigators are expected to complete their work by the weekend. A preliminary report, detailing the information developed at the early stage of the investigation, will be published in about two weeks.

The entire investigation, which will result in a determination of probable cause and will list any contributing factors, is expected to be completed in 12-24 months.

Jeff Walbom, the family representative, called the crash a "total tragedy" for the extended family.

Brian Wood, owner of a funeral home in Idaho Falls, lamented the deaths on Facebook. He called the Hansens “pillars of our community” and wrote that they had offered many times over the years to help pay expenses for someone who might not be able to afford it.

“Our community has a dark cloud over it now,” Wood wrote. “They will never know the many lives they touched.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

(photo courtesy: NTSB)

(the Associated Press contributed to this report)