Monday, June 5, 2017

Robinson R44 II, N7091F, Don Oppliger Trucking Inc: Fatal accident occurred June 03, 2017 in Dimmitt, Castro County, Texas

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Lubbock, Texas
Robinson Helicopter Company; Torrance, California 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf
  
Don Oppliger Trucking Inc: http://registry.faa.gov/N7091F

NTSB Identification: CEN17FA209
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 03, 2017 in Dimmitt, TX
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N7091F
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On June 3, 2017, about 1750 central daylight time, a Robinson R44 II single-engine helicopter, N7091F, impacted terrain while maneuvering near Dimmitt, Texas. The private pilot, who was the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries, and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to Don Oppliger Trucking, Inc, Clovis, New Mexico, and operated by a private individual under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a business flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and a flight plan was not filed for the local flight. The flight departed a private helipad near Farwell, Texas, about 1300.

According to the pilot's business personnel, the pilot departed on a routine flight to check and observe crop fields, business facilities, and other business-related assets. The pilot did not return from the flight and a search was initiated. The helicopter accident site was located about 0800 on June 4, 2017, by business personnel. There were no witnesses to the accident.

Examination of the accident site revealed the helicopter came to rest on its right side in a wheat field (wheat crop was about 3 inches tall). Three ground scars, consistent with the main rotor blades, were observed adjacent to the main wreckage. Fragmented plexiglass was scattered between the ground scars and main wreckage. Separated sections of the main rotor blades were located within a 75-foot diameter of the main wreckage, and the main rotor blades were fragmented, bent, deformed, and remained attached to the rotor hub. The lower forward fuselage was crushed aft and upward. Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit flight controls to the swashplate and tail rotor system. Drivetrain continuity was established from the engine to the main transmission and tail rotor systems. 

The closest National Weather Service reporting site was from the Clovis Municipal Airport (CVN), Clovis, New Mexico, located about 32 miles west of the accident site. At 1735, the CVN site reported winds from 200 at 7 knots, visibility 10 miles, few clouds at 10,000 feet, scattered clouds at 12,000 feet, temperature 22 degrees C, dew point 14 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.04 inches of Mercury.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email eyewitnessreport@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov

Donald "Don"  Oppliger
1949-2017



Donald "Don" Oppliger, 68, of Amarillo, TX, died Sunday, June 4, 2017, in Dimmitt, TX. 

Don was born April 7, 1949, in Columbus, NE, to Edward and Edna Oppliger.

He graduated from Columbus High School in Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska.

He married Joi Christopher on Aug. 14, 1976, in Blair, NE. 

Don owned and operated the Don Oppliger Companies, which include feedlots, farms, and ranches spread across roughly 150,000 acres in Texas, New Mexico, and Nebraska.

He began his business in 1980 with rented farmland in Hereford and quickly began expanding it with the purchase of a 15,000 head feedlot in Farwell.

Don then acquired a 35,000 head feedlot in Clovis, NM, in 1991 and later purchased his first Nebraska farm in Lincoln County, NE, on which he built at 55,000 head feedlot, which he later expanded to 70,000 head. 

In the last decade, Don acquired multiple ranches across Eastern and Western Nebraska and additional farmland and feedlots in Nebraska and Texas. 

His integrated and diversified operations also included a dairy and a trucking company. 

Despite the complexity of the operation, Don somehow managed to track the many details of his businesses in his head and a small notepad he kept in his shirt pocket.

He loved cattle and enjoyed checking on his many pastures and feedlots from the cockpit of his plane or helicopters. 

Aside from attending Nebraska Cornhusker games, farming and flying were his favorite hobbies. 

"People say he died doing what he loved," Ben Oppliger said.   "That's really true." 

Although Oppliger was a successful and wealthy landowner, he also was down-to-earth and always willing to make time for a visit, said Joe Herrod, who owns property neighboring Oppliger's west of Sutherland.

Outside of the industry, few people knew he was such a large operator, Herrod added. 

"He was a wonderful neighbor, just an aw-shucks kind of guy," he said.  "It's really a shame." 

He was preceded in death by a son, Grant Oppliger; and a sister, Lori Prill.

Survivors include his wife, Joi Oppliger, of Amarillo; a son, Benjamin Oppliger and wife Katie, of Amarillo; a granddaughter, Madison Oppliger, of Amarillo; three sisters: Rita Peters and husband Don of Elkhorn, NE; Diane Thompson and husband Joe, of Lincoln, NE; and Phyllis Olson and husband Ralph, of Columbus, NE.

THE FAMILY WILL RECEIVE FRIENDS from 6-7pm Wednesday, June 7, 2017, at the funeral home. 

SERVICES will be at 1pm Thursday, June 8, 2017, at Polk Street United Methodist Church with Dr. Burt Palmer, senior pastor and the Rev. Kevin Deckard, associate pastor, officiating.

Burial will follow at 4pm, in Farwell Cemetery in Farwell, TX. Sign the online guestbook at www.boxwellbrothers.com 

Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors 2800 Paramount Blvd. Amarillo, TX 79109 (806) 355-8156


Don Oppliger, whose massive agribusiness the Oppliger Companies is headquartered in Amarillo, was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in Castro County. He was 68.

Documents from the Castro County Sheriff’s Office said they were called just after 8 a.m. Sunday by the Parmer County (N.M.) Sheriff’s Office after they were notified by an employee of one of Oppliger’s ranches concerning a helicopter crash in the southwestern area of Castro County.

Authorities discovered a crash site in a wheat field about a half mile south of the 200 block of County Road 623. Castro County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety conducted an investigation of the scene and identified Oppliger has the pilot of the helicopter.

He was pronounced dead at the scene by Castro County Justice of the Peace Oreda Campbell, and an autopsy has been ordered.

No other people were believed to be with Oppliger at the time of the crash.

The investigation into the crash in ongoing and is being conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Oppliger started his business career in 1980 when he rented farmland in Hereford that grew corn from the Frito-Lay Company, and then expanded it with a 15,000 head feedlot in Farwell, according to the Oppliger Companies website. The cattle-feeding operation thrived under the watch of Oppliger, who relocated it to the Texas-New Mexico border.

Oppliger then acquired a 35,000 head feedlot near Clovis, N.M., in 1991, as well as more irrigated farmland to supply the new lot, before expanding again to Lincoln County, Neb., in 1998 with a 55,000 head feedlot that he later expanded to more than 70,000.

In the last decade, the Oppliger Companies have acquired multiple ranches across western Nebraska, additional farmland in Nebraska and Texas, and two feedlots located near our larger farming operations.

The company currently operates 10 locations across the Texas Panhandle, eastern New Mexico and Nebraska, including locations in Texline, Dalhart, Farwell and Dimmitt.

The company’s website says it has more that 55,000 acres of irrigated farmland and is headquartered in downtown Amarillo on Polk Street.

Attempts to reach the Oppliger Companies for comment went unreturned.

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