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Two Die As Navy Jet Plows Into Farm Field

May 11, 1985

FLANDREAU, S.D. (AP) _ Two men died when a Navy jet crashed about 20 miles from the home of one victim’s parents, scattering wreckage over 30 acres, just minutes after it roared over this eastern South Dakota town at low altitude.

The A-6 fighter jet was on a training flight from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois to Minneapolis, but Pentagon officials said there was no immediate explanation why the plane was 200 miles west of Minneapolis.

There were reports the jet had flown unusually low in the area before Friday’s crash about 10 miles northwest of Flandreau.

One victim was the bombardier-navigator, Lt. Cmdr. Larry LaLonde, 37, of Tulare, S.D., whose parents live at Elkton, about 20 miles northeast of Flandreau, said Lt. Cmdr. Dale Smith of the Naval Air Station Oceana at Virginia Beach, Va. He identified the other victim as the pilot, Lt. Coleman E. Miller III, 28, of St. Louis Park, Minn.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Combs of the Pentagon said training flights don’t necessarily take the most direct path between bases.

Dennis Rhead, athletic director at Flandreau High School, said he was on the school’s football field when the jet flew over at about 100 feet above the ground. He said he could clearly see the pilot.

The jet crashed into a field on the farm of Norval Gullickson, who was on his tractor about a quarter of a mile away when the plane plowed into the ground.

″I didn’t see it before the crash, it was so quick,″ said Gullickson. ″There was just a loud boom. It is hard to describe the noise.″

″There was a lot of smoke and fire in the field, maybe a quarter mile of smoke. Most of it was burned out before the fire department got here,″ he said.

Gullickson said one body was entangled in a red parachute caught in a fence about a quarter mile from the point of impact, while a second body was 200 to 300 yards away.

Wreckage from the plane was spread over about 30 acres. ″They found the number on it. That’s about all,″ he said.

Gov. Bill Janklow, who flew over the wreckage on a flight from Pierre to Sioux Falls, said, ″It’s quite a wreck. There’s not much left of that plane.″