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Philanthropist couple killed in South Dakota plane crash

In this Dec. 25, 2018 photo, first responders survey the scene where a plane crashed into a home in Sioux Falls, S.D. Two people died when the single-engine airplane crashed and caught fire in a residential neighborhood in Sioux Falls, leading to the evacuation of four homes, police said Wednesday. (Briana Sanchez/Argus Leader via AP)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A couple who were well-known Sioux Falls philanthropists were killed when a small plane crashed in a residential neighborhood of South Dakota’s largest city, police said Wednesday.

The Minnehaha County coroner positively identified the victims as Vaughn and JoAnn Meyer of Sioux Falls, police said. Both were 68 years old.

The plane crashed at around 5 p.m. Tuesday in the backyards of four homes in Sioux Falls, causing significant damage to two of the homes but not injuring anyone on the ground, authorities said.

Police Capt. Loren McManus said at a news briefing that the two people who were on the plane were killed. He later said authorities do not know who was piloting the plane.

The Meyers were known for their philanthropy, the Argus Leader reported . Sioux Falls Lutheran School announced earlier this year it was naming a new 400-seat chapel and performing arts center after the couple after they donated more than $1 million to the project.

Vaughn Meyer was a retired plastic surgeon who, according to Federal Aviation Administration records, received his pilot’s license in 2010, the newspaper reported.

McManus said the debris field stretches for blocks and asked that anyone who comes across mechanical wreckage or “biological debris” to call 911 so that officers can take care of it.

“Please try not to touch it if you can,” McManus said.

Police have secured the crash scene and are awaiting further direction from the National Transportation Safety Board, the lead investigative agency. A company contracted by the NTSB will be in Sioux Falls Wednesday to start the investigation, which could last a few days, police said.

Fire Rescue Division Chief Steve Fessler said residents of two of the four houses that were evacuated following the crash have not returned to their homes. Fessler said the plane came down in the backyards of the four houses, with two of them sustaining significant damage. Firefighters were able to “knock down” the fire that resulted from the crash within 10 minutes, he said.

Jim Lang, who lives nearby, says he felt the ground shake and heard what sounded like a vehicle accelerating rapidly. He looked out his window and saw “a yellow ball of fire.”

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