Sioux Falls plane crash victims ID'd as couple known for dedication to church, philanthropy

Authorities on Wednesday said the two people who died in a Christmas Day plane crash in Sioux Falls, S.D., were a local couple well-known for their philanthropy and dedication to the church.

The Minnehaha County coroner positively identified Vaughn and JoAnn Meyer, both 68, as the only two victims from the plane crash, KSFY-TV reported.

The couple was reportedly headed toward the Sioux Falls airport when their twin-engine plane crashed. Authorities do not know who was piloting the plane.


Jill Onesti, one of the Meyers' daughters, told the paper that her parents were returning home after visiting her in Grand Rapids, Mich., for her birthday. She said her parents' involvement in church and service to God were the "foundation" of their lives.

"If the church had a need, they would fill it," Onesti said.

The Meyers were also well-known for their philanthropy, the Argus Leader reported. Earlier this year, Sioux Falls Lutheran School said it would name a new 400-seat chapel and performing arts center after the couple for their donation of $1 million to the project. The couple had also donated $10,000 to an indoor ice rink and were a part of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation.

Federal Aviation Administration records cited by the Associated Press indicate Vaughn Meyer was a retired plastic surgeon who received his pilot’s license in 2010.

The aircraft crashed around 5 p.m. Christmas Day in the backyards of four Sioux Falls homes. The crash caused significant damage to two homes but no one on the ground was injured, authorities said.


Fire Rescue Division Chief Steve Fessler said firefighters were able to "knock down" the fire that resulted from the crash within 10 minutes. Occupants of two of the four houses that were evacuated after the crash had not returned to their homes as of Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Debris from Tuesday’s wreckage stretches for blocks, Police Capt. Loren McManus said. He requested that anyone who comes across mechanical wreckage or "biological debris" call 911 so that officers can take care of it.

A company contracted by the National Transportation Safety Board was in Sioux Falls on Wednesday to investigated the crash scene. Police said the investigation could last a few days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.