Crash of '68: 'It's something you never forget'
By Katie Brown, Journal staff
Mary Ann (Kingsbury) Davis of Rapid City said she and her former classmates still talk about the six girls from time to time.
"It's just something you never forget," Davis said. "It's in your mind always, especially with the anniversary coming up."
It will be 40 years Monday since six Rapid City Cobbler cheerleaders and three others died in a plane crash coming home from the State A Boys Basketball Tournament. But to some of their classmates, including Davis, the memories of the event are still vivid.
"I remember that morning before we left to come home, we watched the cheerleaders getting into the airport limo," Davis said. "We waved at them."
That was the last time Davis saw seniors Shirley Landstrom, 18, Jan Glaze, 17, and Laurene Kay McNutt, 18, and juniors Diana McCluskey, 17, Gail Flohr, 16, and Terry Blanton, 16.
It was just after 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 17, 1968, when the twin-engine Beechcraft plane piloted by Rapid City businessman Ivan Landstrom, Shirley's father, crashed while trying to land at what was then Rapid City Municipal Airport.
Authorities said the plane erupted into flames seconds after the crash.
It took almost a day for authorities to identify the victims, but the Rapid City community had an idea of who was on board.
Ivan Landstrom, his wife, Mary, and Dorothy Lloyd, English teacher and cheerleading adviser, also died in the crash.
Davis graduated in 1968 from Rapid City High School. She had flown to the state tournament in the Landstroms' plane in 1966, but in 1968, her parents drove her and a group of friends to Sioux Falls.
On their return trip, they ran into some fellow students while stopped at Al's Oasis in Chamberlain, and the students told Davis and her friends the news.
"Back then, we really didn't have counselors from other schools; we just kind of dealt with it on our own," Davis said. "I really think it bound us together as a group, the 1969 and 1968 classes, because it was so traumatic."
Tom Collins of rural Rapid City said he thinks about the girls often.
"A lot of times I drive by places going to work that remind me of them," he said.
Collins, a Rapid City High School senior at the time of the crash, attended the same state tournament and remembers getting the news when he returned to Rapid City by car.
He said going back to school after the crash was overwhelming.
"The rest of that school year, the whole student body was in shock for a long period of time," Collins said. "We didn't have grief counselors like they do now."
He said students grieved in their own way, relying on friends for comfort.
"Those girls weren't just cheerleaders. They were all exemplary students, very well liked by their classmates and really exemplified the Cobbler spirit," Collins said.
Collins said he remembered Lloyd as a kind teacher devoted to the cheerleaders.
"She was just a sweetheart," he said. She was really dedicated to those girls, and it's kind of ironic that she went down with them."
Davis said the six cheerleaders were friendly to everyone.
"They were just so high-spirited and bubbly, and they were not snobbish," she said. "They were very professional as cheerleaders. I remember them always being very precise in their cheerleading."
And, she said she remembered what being a cheerleader meant to the girls.
"Kay McNutt had always wanted to be a cheerleader, and that was her first year getting on the squad," Davis said. "I remember her being so excited about it."