Victims identified in fatal plane crash near Groton

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 8:05 PM CDT
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GROTON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Sunday’s crash marked an abrupt end to a weekend of activity at the Groton airport and emotions are still running high, with the deaths of a married couple from Clark as they tried to take off.

Darrell Hillestad knew Doug and Tina Hanson as those who shared an interest in aviation with him, and Doug and Darrell had both worked in the industry for many years. Which made it hard for Hillestad to process Sunday’s events.

“Doug was a friend of mine, and it hit me in a very hard spot.”

The couple had stopped by the city airport for a fly-in breakfast that Hillestad had helped host.

“Made it a little fly-in breakfast, and wanted to give the kids a good experience out here. To introduce them to aviation I guess, basically,” said Hillestad.

But as the group began to leave the airport to go on a poker run in the area, the Hanson’s had trouble taking off.

“Well, I was flying and, I had seen Doug take off, and end up crashing,” said Hillestad.

Their single-engine American Champion aircraft had crashed just after takeoff. The plane hit the ground and flipped over on it’s back. However exact details of how and why the aircraft crashed is still under investigation. Despite this, Hillestad said he hopes people know that flying is a safe activity.

“It’s like driving a car or walking across the street, or riding a motorcycle or whatever. I mean, it’s sad when things happen and aviation is a very safe industry. I want to clarify that. It is very safe. Accidents do happen. It’s very sad when it does, it draws a lot of attention when it does.”

An investigation into the crash is ongoing. Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration will be out to the crash site in the coming days. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, it’s the third fatal plane crash this year in South Dakota

According to their obituaries, funeral arrangements are still being made for Doug and Tina Hanson. Announcements will be made by Furness Funeral Home in Clark.

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