Air Traffic Controllers Tried Contacting Pilot Moments Before Fatal Plane Crash
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Audio recordings from the Sioux Falls Air Traffic Control tower reveal the moments leading up to a fatal plane crash in Sioux Falls on Christmas day.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: “5 Victor, low altitude alert. Check your altitude immediately.”
In radio transmission, Air Traffic Controllers can be heard alerting a pilot of low altitude just moments before a small plane crashed in a Sioux Falls neighborhood, killing two people on board.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: “Number 45 Victor, climb to maintain 3000. Stay altitude.”
The calls soon become more frantic as there’s no response from the pilot.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: “45 Victor, Sioux Falls Tower, how do you hear?”
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: “Number 45 Victor!”
The plane the air traffic controller is trying to reach is registered through Federal Aviation records to Vaughn Meyer of Sioux Falls.
Flight logs show the 1980 Beechcraft Baron – a six seat, twin engine plane – was scheduled to land in Tea Sunday evening. But it’s flight path shows a last minute turn north.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: “Just so you know, I think we just lost an aircraft.”
Just after 5 p.m. Christmas night the plane exploded into the ground behind four Sioux Falls homes.
“It sounded like a dive bomb, and it went ‘vroooom’ and it just, it came in hard and fast. Just a big fireball,” said Jim Lang, who lives on Birchwood Avenue.
What caused the plane to go down remains a mystery.
“Weather, if I remember right, it was fairly clear up until that point in time,” said Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Division Chief Steve Fessler.
The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the scene.
“It’s really in their hands as far as the investigation goes, and we are more of a support agency at this point,” said Sioux Falls Police Department Captain Loren McManus.
Sioux Falls Police are maintaining a perimeter around the crash site to contain debris, some of which was found up to two and a half blocks away.
“If you find any type of mechanical wreckage or biological debris, please call 9-1-1, we’ll take care of it, said McManus.
The pilot’s wife, JoAnne Meyer, was the second passenger confirmed dead in the crash.
Online flight records show the plane left from the Tea airport on Sunday en route to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The return flight on Christmas was coming from the Gerald Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.