HIGHMORE – A small airplane heading back to South Dakota after a Texas cattle sale crashed into a wind farm in foggy weather.
We have video of the scene in the player above.
Nick Reimann of Ree Heights, Logan Rau of Java, Brent Beitelspacher of Bowdle, and pilot Donald ‘DJ’ Fischer of Gettysburg, all died in the crash. Sullivan Supply, a stock show industry news site, confirmed this information on its blog.
Steve Stengel with Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources says the wreckage was found on the site of the South Dakota Wind Energy Center.
An NTSB spokeswoman tells KSFY News the bodies of all four crash victims have been recovered and wreckage recovery efforts are being postponed until Tuesday morning. NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Jennifer Rodi says the weather has not cooperated and is affecting the recovery efforts at the crash site. The rain and wet conditions are making it difficult for the team to preserve the wreckage evidence.
The crash also damaged the turbine blades, leaving them unsecured and hanging over the wreckage so every wind gust is a danger to the recovery team. Rodi says they are looking into whether or not the poor weather conditions played a role in the crash but adds it will take months even years to fully learn what happened.
That operation south of Highmore has 27 turbines that are about 213 feet tall, plus the length of the blade.
The three passengers were in Hereford to attend a sale of live cattle and embryos, primarily for the production of show steers, said Mike Mimms, a veterinarian who runs the annual event.
Mimms said the three cattlemen noted that they had a rough flight down to Texas due to high winds, and conditions were similar in Hereford when they left.
“They made it through the windy weather, and the fog was the problem when they got there,” he said.
Fischer’s mother sparked the search for the wreckage when she hadn’t heard from him around 2 a.m. The plane was expected to land around 10 or 11 last night.
Doug Kroeplin helped the search party. He told KSFY News the plane stopped in Highmore to pick up a passenger on the way to Texas. Some assume Fischer planned to land in Highmore again on the return trip. The crash happened near the Highmore airport.
Mimms, who performs cattle embryo transfers, said the news has sent shock and sadness through the close-knit ranching community.
“There are a lot of people out there who feel like they lost one of their best friends,” Mimms said.
The National Weather Service in Aberdeen says fog and low clouds combined for reduced visibility in the area Sunday night. Winds were out of the east at about 15 to 25 mph and there were scattered showers, some of them heavy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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