Tyson Dennert, a second-year student at the School of Dentistry, was killed along with eight other members of his extended Idaho family in a plane crash on Saturday near Chamberlain, S.D.
Dennert, 26, and the other victims had taken off from Chamberlain, heading back to Idaho, during a holiday weekend hunting trip. Three other people on the single-engine turboprop reportedly survived the crash, which occurred shortly after takeoff.
“We are all devastated by this tragedy,” said Interim Dean Gary Chiodo. “Tyson was a wonderful young man and fine student who enjoyed the respect and affection of his fellow students and our faculty and staff. Our hearts go out to the rest of his family.”
Other victims of the crash included Dennert’s father-in-law, Kirk Hansen, and Hansen’s brother, Jim Hansen. A report by the Associated Press said that the two were founders of Kyäni, a company that sells nutritional, health, and wellness products, and were also executives with other firms. The crash also claimed the lives of their father, Kirk Hansen’s children, and Jim Hansen’s son and grandson. One other victim was Kyle Naylor, a second-year dental student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who was also Kirk Hansen’s son-in-law. Three other relatives were reportedly hospitalized with injuries.
Dennert left behind his wife, Jessica, and their two children, ages 3 and 1, with another child expected.
On Sunday evening, the family released a statement that said in part: “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, have 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.”
Dennert, who grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho, attended Northwest Nazarene University and Brigham Young University in Idaho, then moved on to Brigham Young University in Utah, where he graduated in 2018. Dental school classmates said he was a serious, dedicated student who could also flash a sharp, dry humor. “You could always count on him for a smile and a laugh,” one said.
“He had so much integrity,” another classmate said. “You knew that whenever he had to make a decision, it would always be professional.”
Classmates said he was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who, having learned Spanish for a volunteer mission to Mexico, would teach the language to other dental students. Dennert also volunteered for dental student outreaches such as the Health and Homelessness initiative.
He was a proficient athlete, having played football and basketball in high school. Recently, he quarterbacked his class’s team to an intramural football championship. With all his activities, though, his classmates said that his wife and children came first. “He always took time for his family,” one said.
“Tyson’s loss affects all of us at the School of Dentistry more deeply than I can say. We are a relatively small school, and our classes form exceptionally close bonds,” Dean Chiodo said.
The dean met with Dennert’s classmates on Monday morning and said that students would be offered UW counseling and emotional support services. Faculty would also be asked to be especially sensitive to the students’ grief in the days ahead, he said.
Information on memorial services for the crash victims was not yet available.