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Man injured in crop duster plane crash in Brookings County

todayJune 14, 2024 2

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BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — A crop duster in Brookings County flipped in a field following a collision with ducks in the air, according to the Brookings County Sheriff’s Department (BCSD).

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According to a news release, a Thrush S2R spray plane was spraying near 474th Ave. and 198th St. when the pilot, Brookings’ Jeffrey Brunsen, turned back towards the field he was spraying. A flock of ducks at that point flew in front of him, striking the engine.

The plane became disabled, and Brunsen attempted an emergency landing in a grass field, at which point the engine came out of the plane, and the plane tipped over onto its top.

BCSD says that Brunsen was able to crawl from the plane himself, and was taken to the Brookings Hospital with unknown injuries.

David Swanson, a biology professor at the University of South Dakota, has a particular interest in ornithology.

During this time of year, the ducks are nesting. They are traveling back and forth from nesting areas to feeding grounds, he said.

Ducks and geese are among the larger birds that can cause the most damage if they collide with a plane.

Pilot Dale Knuth of Hartford said in a March 29, 2023, KELOLAND News story that pilots are always watching for birds in the sky but they are especially aware during migration.

Birds and planes share the skies

A study The Cornell Lab of Ornithology  on bird strike incidents increased by as much as 400% during migration. The study was conducted at four New York Airports and was released in 2021.

Ducks and geese were among the larger birds most likely to cause damage or substantial damage to aircraft in a strike, according to a 2016 study called “Identification of off-airport interspecific avian hazards to aircraft Identification of off-airport interspecific avian hazards to aircraft.”

Damages to the plane, owned by Wilde Air Service, are estimated at $450,000. Fields were undamaged.

KELOLAND News spoke with Dan Letellier, Executive Director of the Sioux Falls Regional Airport on Friday about the risks of animals on an airfield.

“Wildlife of all different shapes and sizes are always a challenge,” said Letellier. He says geese and other birds are a year-round issue at the airport.

“We have turkey vultures — we have eagles on occasion,” said Letellier, but added that perhaps the biggest challenge is actually keeping away gophers, who disturb the ground around the edges of the airfield.

Letellier says that issues with four-legged animals are fairly rare when it comes to interference with flights, but bird strikes happen fairly often. “Pilots report bird strikes, whether those are starlings or there are occasions in the fall or spring migrations when a plane may come in contact with a goose,” he said.

Most of these bird strikes do not cause too much of an issue for planes, said Letellier, unless they hit a flock of birds. In either case, he said pilots must report the strikes so that officials can track trends on bird movements.

KELOLAND reporter Rae Yost contributed to this story.

Written by: The Dam Rock Station

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