CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. — Representatives from federal and state agencies gathered Monday, Dec. 2, in Chamberlain to begin investigating a plane crash that left nine dead and three injured Saturday.
Investigators from the South Dakota Department of Homeland Security arrived Monday to examine what remained of the plane that crashed into a cornfield on a property about a mile north of the Chamberlain Municipal Airport.
A representative from the National Transportation Safety Board said investigation at the scene will likely last several days and will involve NTSB, state Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration and a representative from Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., the company that manufactured the plane.
According to a statement released Monday, the three NTSB investigators who arrived in Chamberlain on Monday after being delayed by weather will spend the next several days documenting the plane's wreckage, systems, flight controls and engines and interviewing witnesses.
According to the NTSB, the crash occurred at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday. At about 9:30 a.m. Friday, the plane's 12 occupants arrived in Chamberlain for a pheasant hunting trip. The pilot, whose name has not been released, purchased 150 gallons of fuel from an automatic fuel pump shortly after arrival and was parked on the airport ramp between arrival and the departure that ended with the crash.
The FAA gave the pilot clearance to fly Saturday, with a 12:20 p.m. scheduled departure for Idaho Falls, Idaho. The plane reportedly departed Chamberlain's runway 31 at 12:26 p.m., and the FAA issued an alert for a missing plane when the flight plan was not activated.
The NTSB report says weather conditions were a half-mile visibility with moderate snow and icing, low-level windshear and clear air turbulence conditions with overcast skies.
Identities of the 12 people on board the Pilatus PC-12 have not been officially confirmed, though all are said to be from Idaho and many were related. A winter storm was in progress when the crash occurred and impeded inspection of the crash, though all bodies were removed from the cornfield by Saturday afternoon.
Brule County Emergency Manager Kathryn Benton said the people on the plane ranged in age from 7 to 81, and two of those who were killed were children. Men ages 17, 27 and 28 survived the crash and were taken to the Sioux Falls area for treatment of injuries.
The Pilatus PC-12 is not required to have a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder. The plane was reportedly equipped with a system that records parameters such as flight track, altitude and speed during the flight.
The NTSB expects a report with information gathered in the early stages of the investigation will be released within two weeks, while a full investigation determining the probable cause of the crash and its contributing factors will take 12 to 24 months to complete.