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NTSB: Pilot error likely cause of 2011 SD crash

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- Federal investigators have concluded that pilot error likely was the cause of a December 2011 plane crash near the Sioux Falls airport that killed four men.

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- Federal investigators have concluded that pilot error likely was the cause of a December 2011 plane crash near the Sioux Falls airport that killed four men.

A National Transportation Safety Board report says charter pilot Brian Blake, 54, failed to follow emergency guidelines for flying with only one engine when one of the engines on the twin-engine Cessna 421C apparently caught fire just after takeoff from Joe Foss field.

Witnesses testified that they saw flames coming from the left engine, but as the plane began a left turn, the flames and white smoke could not be seen, consistent with Blake shutting down the engine.

Contributing to the crash "was the pilot's failure to follow the guidance contained in the pilot's operating handbook, which advised feathering the propeller of the secured engine and retracting the flaps and landing gear," the NTSB report said.

Experts told the Argus Leader newspaper that not feathering the propeller would be like applying a brake to one side of the plane, making it more difficult to fly.

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"The nose dropped abruptly, and the airplane descended to the ground," the federal report said.

The Dec. 9, 2011, crash killed Blake, Kevin Anderson and Daniel Swets of Sioux Falls, and Joshua Lambrecht of Brandon. The three passengers were headed to a robotics competition in Rapid City.

Swets, 47, Anderson, 50, and Lambrecht, 30, were leaders in the FIRST Lego League. FIRST is an acronym that means "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology." The competition features teams of students who build robots with Lego bricks, using Lego software to program them to complete tasks on an obstacle course.

Widows Robyn Swets and Cindy Anderson in August 2012 fulfilled their late husbands' dream of opening a South Dakota Robotics Association engineering studio in Sioux Falls. Daniel Swets was president of the association when he died.

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