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NTSB: Pilot error likely to blame for Christmas 2018 fatal plane crash

(Sioux Falls Police Department via NTSB)
(Sioux Falls Police Department via NTSB)(Dakota News Now)
Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 11:50 AM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The National Transportation Safety Board says the pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed likely caused a fatal plane crash in Sioux Falls on Christmas Day in 2018.

The NTSB’s report was released this month following nearly two years of investigation. It includes statements from family members of the victims, a witness who saw the plane crash, as well as weather studies, photos of the crash site, and a video from a nearby surveillance camera that shows a fireball over a tree line.

Vaughn and JoAnn Meyer of Sioux Falls were killed in the crash when the plane crashed between two homes near 49th Street and Birchwood Avenue around 5:00 pm December 25, 2018.

According to the report, the initial impact point was located in trees and along the back of a house. All major parts of the plane were located at the scene although a piece of the landing gear was located across the street.

The report also mentions that because of a government furlough at the time, neither the NTSB or the Federal Aviation Administration responded to the site. The site investigation was conducted by the Sioux Falls Fire Department.

The wreckage of the airplane was recovered from the scene and relocated to a facility in Minnesota. The recovery of the wreckage was hampered by severe weather in the form of heavy snow and below-freezing temperatures.

The airplane was fragmented and charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire. The left and right wing was fragmented into multiple pieces and exhibited exposure to heat and fire.

NTSB: Pilot error likely to blame for fatal 2018 Christmas crash
NTSB: Pilot error likely to blame for fatal 2018 Christmas crash(NTSB Report)

An NTSB investigator interviewed Gideon Carlisle a few days after the crash. Carlisle said he was taking his trash outside when he heard the plane approaching. Carlisle said the plane sounded fine at first, then he heard a change in the engines. The plane popped out of the clouds and Gideon said the plan was heading straight for his house. Gideon believes the pilot tried to pull the plane out of the dive, but the plane crashed nearby and erupted into a ball of flames. Gideon ran to the scene but couldn’t do anything. Firefighters arrived shortly after the crash.

In an interview with Tony Onesti, he told investigators that Vaughn Meyer had an autopilot issue with the plane about three months before the accident. Onesti said Meyer told him he was at 15,000 feet with the autopilot on when the plane nosed over and descended rapidly in a stalled condition. Meyer was able to recover and later had the problem fixed.

 Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/JoAnnMeyer
Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/JoAnnMeyer (KSFY)

The Meyers were returning to Sioux Falls from a holiday celebration with family in Michigan. Vaughn was a retired plastic surgeon at Plastic Surgery Associates of South Dakota. The couple met while attending the University of South Dakota and married in 1971. They had three children. The couple was known for their philanthropy. In 2018, the couple donated more than a million dollars to Sioux Falls Lutheran School for its Chapel and Performing Arts Center.

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