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25,000 pounds of marijuana were on board the DC-7 caught in Walworth County on Super Bowl Sunday in 1980.
25,000 pounds of marijuana were on board the DC-7 caught in Walworth County on Super Bowl Sunday in 1980.

The Super Bowl of Drug Busts

Akaska is home to two dozen people until the walleye start biting, and then the population swells with anglers. The quiet village on the east shore of the Missouri is an hour’s drive from Pierre — but your DC-7 can make it in ten minutes, and you can land in the grasslands near the river. It’s been done. 

On Super Bowl Sunday afternoon in 1980, some local men left their ice-fishing shacks on the Missouri and headed home to watch the game. About sundown a huge plane flew low over their heads. They saw it land about 3 miles away.

The fishermen followed with their pickups, thinking they’d seen a plane crash. When they neared the landing site, they saw a suspiciously undamaged plane. Two men in the plane said they had engine trouble; one of them muttered something about being low on fuel.

One of the Akaskans parked his pickup in front of the plane so it couldn’t take off, and another ducked around the back of the plane and let the air out of the tires. Soon the two strangers fled into the night.

Local authorities eventually arrested six men and seized $18 million worth of marijuana in the plane — the biggest drug bust in state history. Apparently the plane had flown to Colombia to rendezvous with local dealers. They intended to land during the Super Bowl when everyone would be watching television, but due to a strong south wind, they arrived early and were spotted.

This is one fish story they don’t have to embellish at the Sportsmen’s Bar in Akaska.


Editor's note: This story originally appeared in South Dakota Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Offbeat Stuff by Bernie Hunhoff. To order a copy, visit our online store or call us at 1-800-456-5117.


05:51 am - Thu, February 2 2012
Sharalyn Del Grosso said:
My husband, Tom, was the first DCI agent on the scene. He told of all the bales of marijuana that was removed and had to be stored and secured. I have some interesting pictures of this endeavor. Law enforcement has a history of creating t-shirts to commemorate various events. I still have my "Biggest Bust in South Dakota" t-shirt. The fishermen were being good neighbors.
06:39 pm - Sun, February 5 2012
Bonnie Gorham said:
If my memory serves me right, I think Tony Rivers, who lived across the river, saw the plane go down and called the Mobridge police dept, who called the Walworth Co. sheriff, Jim Spiry. There were no cell phones in those days so the men in the pickups would have had to get to a land line phone, probably in Akaska, to report the downed plane. When Spiry came over the hill and saw the huge plane on the ground by the river, he radioed for backup.
10:11 am - Mon, February 6 2012
Bruce Tucker said:
A good friend, from my wife's hometown of Lake Preston, gave (or let me borrow - long term) two binders of past issues, of South Dakota Magazine, and I have the original "Pot Plane" issue. Did they ever figure out who the intended customer was?
10:28 pm - Sat, February 25 2012
Gage Taylor said:
My mom, Peggy Taylor(Lemburg), grew up in Selby. I have heard the story about this plane quite a bit. If i am remembering right, there was someone or a group of people from Selby, Mobridge, or somewhere close that was to meet them to recieve the cargo. The cargo was supposed to come in when it was darker in the night(I believe). I don't know if this is correct, but i believe the men/man who were/was to meet the plane when it landed, had pulled up a couple hours after it had been radioed in. I think the recievers were arrested, but weren't sentenced for very long.
06:55 am - Mon, February 27 2012
Laura Johnson said:
According to the original article (which appeared in our Jan/Feb 1997 issue), "the culprits received jail sentences of two to three years in length and fines of $3,500 to $5,000."

You are correct about the plan - the plane was supposed to land when it was dark and the locals were busy watching the Super Bowl, but southerly winds pushed the plane ahead of schedule.
04:09 pm - Fri, November 23 2012
cory olson said:
My uncle was actually the first to the plane. He was a school friend of the guy who got busted. Just heard the story tonite. Bad ass. Fuck the police. They would have got away with it if they had enough fuel! Good thing the guy got away with the coke!!!!
05:53 pm - Wed, September 10 2014
anonymous said:
Yeah to bad they didn't actually get the head honchos in that bust suspicion tells me that they didn't even get the money men bad police work if u ask me. In my opinion good men got thrown in jail, Having to taking the heat for the top dogs while they hid behind there money.. Good job coppers u got the middle men..
07:24 am - Wed, April 6 2016
Anonymous said:
What were the names of the head honchos and money men that were reportedly behind if anyone knows

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