9 Latter-day Saints killed in plane crash remembered for gospel-driven commitment to helping others

News of a Saturday, Nov. 30, plane crash in South Dakota that claimed the lives of nine Latter-day Saints from an extended family has staggered relatives, friends, business associates and fellow members across eastern Idaho — and far beyond.

“This is a devastating event,” said Ammon Idaho Foothills Stake President Von Crofts. “These people are pillars of our business and Church community. They are respected and loved by so many.” 

President Crofts’ first counselor, President James Hansen Jr., was killed in the private, single-engine plane crash near Chamberlain, South Dakota. Also killed was President Hansen’s father, James Hansen Sr.; President Hansen’s brother, Kirk Hansen; one of President Hansen’s sons, Jake, and grandson, Houston. 

Kirk Hansen’s sons, Stockton and Logan, and his sons-in-law, Kyle Naylor and Tyson Dennert, also died.

The three survivors include Matt Hansen, a son of President Hansen; Thomas Long, a son-in-law of President Hansen; and Josh Hansen, son of Kirk Hansen. The three were being treated Monday at a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, hospital and reportedly were in stable condition.

The family was returning to Idaho Falls at midday Saturday after traveling to South Dakota for a pheasant hunt they took every year on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Twelve people were aboard when their Pilatus PC-12 crashed within a mile after takeoff, the Associated Press reported.

Federal investigators were arriving at the crash site Monday. 

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson said no cause has been determined and that investigators would be reviewing the weather along with other factors. Storms in the region prevented investigators from reaching the site earlier.

It’s not clear who the pilot was, but Kirk Hansen had a private pilot certificate and his medical information was up to date with the FAA, the Associated Press reported.

The Hansen family is admired across the Gem State for its Church service, business acumen and world-wide charitable efforts. James Hansen Jr. and Kirk Hansen were executives with several companies — including Conrad & Bischoff petroleum company, KJ’s Super Stores, and Kyani, a global nutritional products and wellness company.

The Hansen family released a statement in response to the many offering condolences:

“The outpouring of love and expressions of concern for the welfare of the Hansen, Dennert, and Naylor families in the aftermath of the tragic accident on Nov. 30, 2019, has been overwhelming. The families wish to express their deepest gratitude for the numerous friends, family and business partners who have reached out with support, prayers and best wishes during this trying time.

“The legacy of Jim Hansen, Kirk Hansen and their father, Jim Hansen Sr., will be preserved and will flourish through their families and established business partners today, tomorrow and into the future.”

In place of flowers, the Hansen family is asking well-wishers to contribute to Kyani’s Caring Hands Mission to assist people in need, while providing opportunities “for others to grow temporally and spiritually on the path to become Christlike disciples.”

Utah County resident Gavon Barkdull worked closely with the elder Hansen brothers. He remembers James and Kirk always beginning their frequent business trips together with a prayer.

“It was their sincere desire to be instruments in the hands of the Lord to do good in the world with the blessings they had been given,” he said.

Hansen family representative and business associate Jeff Walbom said all those lost to Saturday’s tragedy will be deeply missed.

“The family has been so kind and good to our community,” he said. “Their goal in life has been to help other people and provide them with opportunities. And they did that.”

 In a Facebook post, Kyani's Caring Hands Missouri president Travis Garza wrote, “We are all mourning and ask for your prayers for the [Hansen] family.”

Jim and Kirk Hansen, he added, improved lives “through their mission and vision.”

President Crofts said his first counselor, Jim Hansen Jr., and his relatives were renowned for their generosity and selfless actions. “[They were] so giving and kind and helped wherever there was a need.”

Saturday’s plane crash has left many in mourning. The tragedy made for somber Sabbath-day gatherings Sunday in Latter-day Saint congregations across eastern Idaho. Now people are leaning on one another and drawing upon divine comfort as they grieve.

“Our understanding of the plan of salvation and the Savior is what brings us peace and comfort,” said President Crofts. “The example [of the extended Hansen family] is what will help us get through this.

“We will want to be like them.”

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