Gettysburg grieves loss of local pilot
A plane crash near Highmore caused the death of a Gettysburg man and left the community grieving.
DJ Fischer, 30, was piloting the single engine Piper 32 aircraft from Hereford, TX to Gettysburg on Sunday night when it collided with a wind turbine 10 miles south of Highmore, SD. The accident claimed the life of Fischer along with his three passengers, Brent Beitelspacher, 37 of Bowdle and formerly of Gettysburg, Logan Rau, 25 of Java, and Nick Reimann, 33 of Ree Heights. The men were returning from a cattle sale in Texas. The three passengers were members of ranching families in the region, and Fischer is a second generation ag-pilot who flew for AirKraft Spraying.
When Fischer’s plane did not arrive at the airport in Gettysburg when scheduled Sunday night, the search started. Cell phone GPS locators helped lead rescue crews to the site of the accident.
The plane was discovered around 3:30 Monday morning at the SD Wind Energy Center. The wreckage was at the base of one of the 27 towers which stand 213 feet tall, in addition to the length of the blades.
Weather conditions that night were not ideal. Visibility was reduced by fog and low clouds. with winds out of the east up to 25 mph. Rain was also in the mix, and the weather continued the following day, which hindered recovery efforts.
Fischer was a native of Gettysburg, where he was described by many as the “all-American boy,” participating in all aspects of school and being honored on many levels from sports awards to the GHS Homecoming King. He went on to play football for SDSU where he graduated with a degree in economics and a minor in aviation. He went on to sign with the Sioux Falls Storm, but a shoulder injury prevented him from playing with the arena football team.
He returned to Gettysburg where he and his bride, Megan, were making their home. They were married on March 12 in Mexico.
His parents are Laurie and Steve Robbennolt, and the late Don Fischer, who was also an ag spray pilot. His sister is Amber Mikkelsen, and brothers are Tyler Fischer and Michael Fischer, all of Gettysburg.
He served as an EMT and a fireman, and the flags at the local fire and rescue hall were lowered to half staff Monday morning in his honor.
His funeral will be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the GHS gym, followed by a reception at the Legion Community Building. A prayer service will be at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 7 p.m. on Friday.
The accident is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. A full report can take up to a year to complete.