Monday marks 22nd anniversary of plane crash near Aberdeen that claimed the life of golfer Payne Stewart
ABERDEEN, S.D. — On October 25, 1999, a Sunjet Aviation Learjet 35 carrying golfer Payne Stewart, three other passengers, and two pilots, crashed near Aberdeen, South Dakota.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined the crash was a result of crew member incapacitation due to loss of cabin pressure. The cause of the initial depressurization was undetermined.
The plane, originally on a course from Orlando to Dallas, lost contact with air traffic controllers soon after departure. It veered off course and traveled northwest, accompanied at times by U.S. Air Force F-16’s, until it spiraled to the ground and crashed in an open field. The impact made a depression forty feet long, twenty feet wide, and eight feet deep. Because the plane had already run out of fuel, there was no explosion.
Air Force pilots were unable to make contact with the aircraft and also noted that the cockpit windows were covered in either condensation or frost – typical in cabin depressurizations.
William Payne Stewart was born in Springfield, Missouri, on January 30, 1957. After playing collegiate golf at Southern Methodist University in Texas, he turned professional in 1979. He would go on to win three majors: the 1989 U.S. PGA Championship at Kemper Lake, Illinois, the 1991 U.S. Open at Hazeltine, and the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst – just months before his death.
The other passengers on board the Learjet included Stewart’s agents, Robert Fraley and Van Ardan, and golf course designer Bruce Borland. 42-year-old pilot Michael King and his 27-year-old first officer, Stephanie Bellegarrigue, were also killed.