2 Victims of Christmas Plane Crash in South Dakota Have Been Identified

By Miguel Moreno
Miguel Moreno
Miguel Moreno
Miguel Moreno is a reporter based in New York City who works for the Epoch Media Group. His main area of focus is breaking news and politics.
December 26, 2018 Updated: December 26, 2018

Two deaths have been confirmed after a plane crashed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The plane crashed around 5 p.m. on Dec. 25 in the backyards of some Sioux Falls residents.

Captain Loren McManus of the South Dakota Police Department (SDPD) confirmed the second death on Dec. 26 in an interview with The Epoch Times.

The victims have since been identified as well-known Sioux Falls philanthropist couple Vaughn and JoAnn Meyer, both 68, who were the only two passengers on the plane. The Minnehaha County coroner made the positive identification on Dec. 26, reported AP.

According to public records, Vaughn, a plastic surgeon, was the owner of the 1980 Beechcraft 58P involved in the crash. He was also a licensed pilot, reported the Argus Leader.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been contacted and two of their contracted companies will now work to collect the wreckage, although the collection date is yet to be confirmed. A team of SDPD officers will monitor the wreckage until they receive further instructions from the NTSB.

Ball of Fire on Christmas Day

When Sioux Falls Fire Rescue (SFFR) arrived on the scene, they immediately saw “heavy smoke, intense heat, and flames coming from the backyard of 4209 and 4213 South Birchwood Avenue,” according to the SDPD’s press release on Dec. 26.

Jim Lang, a resident of the neighborhood, described hearing something like an accelerating vehicle running down his block, until he looked outside and saw a yellow ball of fire, reported AP.

“The whole ground just shook … something had crashed; I didn’t know if it was a car … but as we got closer it looked like it was a plane—it looked like a plane that probably crashed in my neighbors backyard.”

Other families like Kimberly Bechtold-Erickson’s were enjoying pie and coffee after their Christmas dinner when they heard the plane’s loud engine approaching.

Still in shock and disbelief after seeing this happen tonight. We were at my dad's house which is about 100 yards from the crash. We heard the plane and looked out dining room window just as the explosion happened. Prayers to the family and many thanks to the first responders. #eastsideplanecrash #planecrash #siouxfalls. https://youtu.be/hjdi3XO94Cc Video credit – Chris Smith

Kimberly Bechtold-Erickson 发布于 2018年12月25日周二

“Just at that time, we felt the house shake and heard a loud explosion and the entire view from the window was filled [with] flames from a fireball,” Bechtold-Erickson said in an interview with The Epoch Times.

After hearing the loud crash, some family members thought it sounded like a plane nose-diving but Kimberly didn’t expect that this was really what had happened. Unsure of what the explosion meant for their neighbors, the family immediately ran outside to see if anyone needed help.

“It was a very sad day and a Christmas that we won’t ever forget,” she said.

Damage from the Crash

The SFFR were able to quickly contain the most intense parts of the fire and then started to make their way into four properties on which the plane had landed to evacuate any people still inside. Fortunately, the families in all the affected homes were able to escape immediately.

Both homes 4209 and 4213 sustained some structural damage, and light to moderate fire damage but no bystanders or firefighters were hurt during the incident.

The next morning on Dec. 26, McManus said that the two families of the homes that sustained structural damage have yet to return to their respective property.

This is the second fatal plane crash this year in South Dakota.

A Cessna airplane crash occurred on Nov. 2 in Bradly, South Dakota—about 2 hours away from Sioux Falls. Only the plane’s operator, John Shoemaker, 47, was killed in that crash, according to The Rapid City Journal.

The airplane crashed nose-first into a farm area and caused a post-crash fire, according to the NTSB. A witness near the crash site described the noise as “an airplane that seemed to climb and descend twice, followed by a loud noise.”

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Miguel Moreno
Miguel Moreno is a reporter based in New York City who works for the Epoch Media Group. His main area of focus is breaking news and politics.