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Plane crash that killed nine of 12 family members on pheasant hunting trip was due to pilot error

A plane that crashed in 2019 in South Dakota, killing nine family members on a pheasant hunting trip, was dangerously overloaded and caked with ice, factors that contributed to the wreck, a federal report says.

The single-engine Pilatus PC-12, piloted by Kirkland Hansen, the executive of the wellness company Kyani, barely cleared the runway, climbing only 460ft during a blizzard at the Chamberlain airport on November 30 before it stalled and crashed into a cornfield.

The accident killed the pilot, his brother Jim, who was a co-founder of Kyani, their father Jim Hansen Sr; Kirk Hansen’s children, Stockton and Logan; his sons-in-law, Kyle Naylor and Tyson Dennert; and Jim Hansen’s son, Jake, and grandson, Houston.

The extended family of 12 (all pictured) who went on a hunting trip in South Dakota before a fatal plane crash that left nine of them dead, and three fighting for their lives have been identified 

Kirk Hansen, the pilot in the fatal crash, seen here trying to de-ice the plane in blizzard conditions

Kirk Hansen, the pilot in the fatal crash, seen here trying to de-ice the plane in blizzard conditions

Snow and ice had accumulated on the wings and tale of the single-engine Pilatus PC-12 before takeoff

Snow and ice had accumulated on the wings and tale of the single-engine Pilatus PC-12 before takeoff

The plane carrying the Hansen family, who were on their annual pheasant hunting trip, only made it to 460 feet off the ground before stalling and crashing

The plane carrying the Hansen family, who were on their annual pheasant hunting trip, only made it to 460 feet off the ground before stalling and crashing

Miraculously the pilot's son Josh, Jim's son Matt and a son-in-law Thomas Long all survived

Miraculously the pilot’s son Josh, Jim’s son Matt and a son-in-law Thomas Long all survived 

Miraculously the pilot’s son Josh, Jim’s son Matt and a son-in-law Thomas Long all survived. They were in South Dakota for their annual Thanksgiving pheasant hunt.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the crash found that Kirk Hansen was in a hurry to take off in blinding snow storm and tried to de-ice the plane in freezing temperature using rubbing alcohol he bought from a local store.

Crash investigators conclusions 

  • Contrary to guidance in the airplane flight manual, the pilot attempted to remove snow and ice from the airplane outdoors while frozen precipitation was falling, and he did not completely remove snow and ice accumulations from the vertical and horizontal stabilizers.
  • There were more people on the aircraft than available seats
  • The airplane was loaded 107 lbs. above the maximum gross weight
  • The plane was loaded between 3.99 and 5.49 inches aft of the aft center of gravity limit, significantly lessening the longitudinal stability of the aircraft
  • The pilot initiated the takeoff rotation at about 88 knots, 4 knots slower than the prescribed rotation speed with the ICE PUSHER MODE active, decreasing the margin of the stall warning rotation 

According to report, he stayed behind on the hunting trip with one other family member used a step ladder and ice scraper to clear the ice and snow caked on the wings and tail outside in the elements instead of taking the plane inside a hanger to clear it off.

‘It’s coming off pretty good,’ Hansen told the Chamberlain Airport manager Dustin Hrabe, who told investigators he saw the pilot ‘chipping away’ at the ice for three hours after two inches had falling overnight.

Carey Story, the owner of the Thunderstik Lodge where the family was staying, urged them not to fly, offering to put them up for another night, but Kirkland said that they ‘had to get home’ to Idaho Falls, Idaho where they’re from.

‘The pilot told him that the airplane was 98% good and the remaining ice would come off during takeoff,’ according to investigators.

The plane didn’t even have enough seats for all the passengers aboard, and two people were likely seated in the aisles when it crashed shortly after takeoff. The report said the plane was about 107 pounds overweight, according to the NTSB.

The aircraft’s center of gravity was off because some of the passengers had to sit in the aisles. 

But the report said that ten minutes before takeoff there were visible icicles hanging from the plane’s horizontal stabilizer, and snow was falling heavily. Video from the crash, and a transcript of communications with the tower indicate the runway was at least partly covered with snow.

Previously, the NTSB said three of the Pilatus PC12 plane’s warning systems — the stall warning, stick shaker and stick pusher — activated within seconds of liftoff. The plane only managed to climb 460 feet into the air before it crashed less than a mile from the Chamberlain airport.

The family said the Traveler’s Prayer just before takeoff, according to a transcript from the voice recorder.

Jim Hansen Jr was one of the nine people killed in a plane crash in South Dakota on Saturday

Pilot Kirk Hansen

Jim Hansen Jr (left) and his brother Kirk (right), died when their plane went down in a field near Chamberlain, South Dakota, on the way back from a hunting trip

Kirk Hansen's children, Stockton (right, pictured with his partner) and Logan, were killed when the plane went down in a heavy snowstorm

Kirk Hansen’s children, Stockton (right, pictured with his partner) and Logan, were killed when the plane went down in a heavy snowstorm

Kirk son-in-law Tyson Dennert (right)

Kyle Naylor (left)

Kirk sons-in-law, Kyle Naylor (right with his wife) and Tyson Dennert (left with his wife) were also killed in the crash 

‘It don’t look good to me I don’t know what you guys are thinking,’ the airport manager told the pilot as the plane taxied on the runway.

Cockpit recordings show the family joked about the airport taking too long to clear the strip for takeoff.

Jim Hansen Sr was also killed in the crash n a heavy snowstorm

Jim Hansen Sr was also killed in the crash

‘In my pickup, I could have done it in 30 minutes,’ one of the family members says.

The airport manager give a final warning to the pilot before the wheels came up.

‘You guys are crazy,’ he said. ‘I got berms on this thing.’ He said referring to the snow piling up. ‘That don’t look good to me.’

Witness Scott Lewis, whose mother-in-law lives at the end of the runway, said that he saw the plane take off, but it never flew over the house.

‘I was putting my daughters car in her garage and was sweeping snow off of it when I heard the plane take off,’ Lewis told investigators. ‘It was snowing so hard I could not see the plane.’ 

The Hansens were executives with Kyani, which markets nutritional, health and wellness products, as well as with petroleum products distributor Conrad & Bischoff and KJ’s Super Stores.

The group had been on a hunting trip to South Dakota, one of the nation’s top destinations for pheasants, when their plane crashed, according to East Idaho News.

A photo showed the family posing together after their hunt.  

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.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk