Published On: Sun, Feb 3rd, 2019

South Dakota: Comet Haraldson identified as pilot killed in weekend plane crash

UPDATE: Obituary listed.

Authorities have identified the pilot that was killed in a plane crash over the weekend in southeast South Dakota as Comet Haraldson.

Haraldson, 69, died Sunday afternoon as his single-engine Piper Cherokee aircraft crashed in a field between Canistota and Bridgewater.

McCook County Emergency Management Director Brad Stiefvater identified Haraldson, noting that he had a medical issue prior to the crash.

The sheriff’s department has cleared the wreckage, which is being stored in a secure county building due to the government shutdown.



Comet Haraldson

Comet Haraldson

Authorities say a medical condition is likely to blame for a deadly plane crash in southeast South Dakota.

A small single-engine aircraft crashed in a field between Canistota and Bridgewater around 2:15 p.m. Sunday.

McCook County emergency management officials tell KSFY the pilot reported having health issues mid-flight.

Air traffic control audio, recorded on the website LiveATC.net, revealed a nearly half-hour struggle to help the pilot safely land the plane. Controllers advised the pilot to land in on a county road or a field, where first responders would be able to provide assistance.

The pilot ultimately was not able to land safely and crashed into a field.

Air traffic control coordinated a response on the ground with local law enforcement agencies.

“Today, our dispatch center got a call from the air traffic controllers out of Sioux Falls advising that they had a pilot that was calling in an emergency,” McCook County Emergency Manager, Brad Stiefvater said.

Stiefvater said they were told the pilot was having health issues.

“He was having medical problems and having trouble controlling the plane as a result of those,” Stiefvater

“We tried to reach this individual on the Unicom aircraft frequency from the ground to no avail and then 10 minutes later air traffic control advised that they had lost contact,” Stiefvater said.

Shortly after losing contact with the pilot first responders found the crashed plane between Canistota and Bridgewater.

“The NTSB has been contacted and we’ll be releasing no more information until the family is notified,” Stiefvater said.

Authorities are not saying whether anyone else was on board the plane at the time of the crash.


Sioux Falls – Comet Haraldson died Sunday, January 13th, near Salem, South Dakota, in an airplane accident. He was 69 years old. Comet was born on February 11, 1949, in Sharon, ND, the first son of Comet and Olive (Ruud) Haraldson. He attended school in Harvey, ND; Aberdeen SD; and graduated in 1967 from Pierre High School. He attended USD in Vermillion earning his BA and MA.

Comet was a professional musician after college in the Midwest and California.

He graduated from the USD Law School in 1979 followed by a clerkship in Pierre for one year. He was employed with Woods, Fuller, Shultz and Smith law firm from 1980 until his death.

He married Tena Anderson in 1981, and they have 2 sons: Andrew and John.

Comet enjoyed music, playing the guitar, flying his own airplane, and touring on motorcycles.

He married Naomi Keiser in 2014.

He is preceded in death by his mother and father. A visitation will be held at Miller Southside Chapel, 7400 South Minnesota Ave, Friday from 4-7 PM. Funeral services will be held Saturday, at First Lutheran Church, 327 South Dakota Avenue, at 11 AM.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to the South Dakota Airshow, Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues, and/or the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Comet served on the boards of these organizations.

He is survived by his wife, Naomi, sons John and Andy, step daughters Sara and Kim, 3 grandchildren, sister Corrinne Berkland (David), and brother Steve (April Rodgers), 3 nephews, and former spouse Tena.


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