Dahl accident draws response around Kansas

Local and state leaders responded with condolences to news of the death of Hills?boro resident and former Kansas House representative Don Dahl, 69, in an ultra-light aircraft accident Friday just a few miles from his hometown.

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Dahl was flying northbound at a low altitude about 1:45 p.m. when the aircraft hit a tree branch, then hit the ground next to a pond and flipped upside down about two miles south and one-half mile west of Hillsboro on 170th Road.

?The ultra-light plane then came to rest upside down in the pond,? KHP trooper Eric Rust said Friday.

Dahl was taken by Hills?boro Emergency Medical Services to Hillsboro Com?munity Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:37 p.m. by an attending physician and the coroner.

The ultra-light aircraft was left on the private property where it crashed at the request of the landowner, authorities said.

In addition to the KHP, the Marion County Sheriff?s office was on scene.

Sheriff Rob Craft said Dahl was flying the ultra-light plane to the airport in Hillsboro.

?It had just taken off from a few miles south before crashing into a pond after hitting a tree shortly after takeoff,? he said.

In addition to Marion County deputies responding, Craft said, Hillsboro police, fire and rescue personnel were also there.

?KHP was called to work the accident as they are required to investigate aircraft accidents,? he said.

A Hillsboro High School and Tabor College alum, Dahl was a retired U.S. Navy commander, along with being a pilot, parachutist and in special operations from 1968 to 1990. During his military service, he served in Japan, Korea and the Philippines.

Dahl may be best known for his years of service in the Kansas House as a Repub?li?can from 1997 through 2008. He spent his last two years as speaker pro tem, the third-highest leader in the majority party.

Dahl also was chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee for four years.

In an interview with the Free Press in June 2008, Dahl said he decided not to seek re-election as 70th District state representative because fellow lawmakers in Topeka seemed more interested in short-term political gains than the long-term economic well-being of the state.

?Finally, I just sort of said enough?s enough,? he said.

At the end of the 2008 session, Dennis McKinney, the ranking minority leader, made a special point to express appreciation to Dahl ?for running a very good, impartial show.?

Said Dahl: ?The whole body stood up and clapped. That makes a person feel good.?

Last December, Gov. Sam Brownback appointed Dahl to the Supreme Court nominating commission. He was one of nine members on the nominating commission and one of four appointed by Brownback.

In that role, he helped screen applications for vacancies, interview candidates and choose finalists for the governor to review.

Upon learning of the accident Friday, Brownback said in statement that he was ?greatly saddened? to hear of Dahl?s death and extended sympathy to his family and friends.

?He had a proud legacy of public service,? Brownback added. ?A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he served the people of Kansas as a representative for six terms. The lieutenant governor and I extend our personal sympathy to his family and friends.?

State Rep. Jan Pauls of Hutchinson served with Dahl while he was in the Legislature. Pauls said Dahl cared about Christian values and people.

Jim Ward, a representative of Wichita, said Dahl was ?an old school, Navy man, straightforward and good people.?

Locally, Dahl was a frequent participant in the Fouth of July Eve celebrations at the Schaeffler House Museum in Hillsboro.

Dressed in a black stove?pipe and coat, often in sweltering heat, Dahl presented Abraham Lincoln?s ?Gettys?burg Address? from the front porch to an appreciative audience seated in lawn chairs below.

Public visitation for Dahl will be from 6-8 p.m. Thurs?day at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church, 300 Prairie Pointe. Burial will be at 10 a.m. Friday at the HMBC cemetery, with the funeral at the church beginning at 11 a.m.

A memorial has been established with Tabor College in care of Jost Funeral Home, P.O. Box 266, Hillsboro, KS 67063.