Industry loses three cattlemen in plane crash |

Industry loses three cattlemen in plane crash

Amanda Radke
for Tri-State Livestock News

As the result of a tragic plane crash about five miles south of Highmore, S.D., on April 28, South Dakota mourns the loss of four men.

Nick Reimann (age 33) of Ree Heights, Logan Rau (age 25) of Java, Brent Beitelspacher (age 37) of Bowdle, and pilot Donald ‘DJ’ Fischer (age 30) of Gettysburg, all died in the accident.

The small plane crashed into the South Dakota Wind Energy Center, a 27-turbine operation owned by Florida-based NextEra Energy. A blade from one of the wind towers appeared to be broken, but the investigation is still underway as to what exactly happened in the wreck.

The four were traveling home from a cattle sale in Hereford, Texas. The National Weather Service reported conditions for reduced visibility near Highmore, S.D., on Sunday night, with fog, low clouds, and winds out of the east at 15-25 miles per hour.

The pilot, Fischer, is best known for his time as a South Dakota State University Jackrabbit football player, where he was a four-year letter winner as defensive tackle and was named honorable mention all-Great West Football Conference. He had just married wife, Megan, in March and was a pilot for Air Kraft Spraying Inc.

Reimann, Rau, and Beitelspacher were all highly regarded in the beef cattle industry. Each had earned great respect in the industry, and the response to the loss of these three individuals within the agricultural community has been nationwide.

Rau was working with his father, Todd, on the family ranch, and leaves behind his wife, Natalie.

Bietelspacher was married to Nicole and had two children, Cade and Alana. He worked for Northern Plains, a diversified farmer-owned county operation of Cenex Harvest Sales.

Reimann owned and operated Reimann Ranch with his wife Kyrstin and young children Croix and Cannon. Reimann worked with youth by teaching clinics through Sullivan Supply’s Stock Show University. He has been described by many of his peers and friends in the business as “legendary,” “a mentor,” “my idol,” and “a true friend.”

Social media has a way of spreading news – both good and bad – faster than ever before. News spread of this tragedy quickly, and it was evident that these four individuals were deeply loved by many across the nation, in the state of South Dakota, and in their small, rural communities.

One individual who was touched by the loss of these men was Hayes Martens, a cattleman from Missouri who enjoys art in his spare time.

“In any industry, you have people going through the motions and then you have people making an imprint with what they do,” said Martens. “You can look at every major stock show, and all the little ones in between, and see an imprint of these three gentlemen. I did not know any of them personally, but you can tell a lot about an individual by the industry they work in, the company they keep and by what their friends say when they’re gone. Without a doubt these three will be missed for many years.”

Although he had never met Reimann before, he was inspired by his life and wanted to do something for his family. He drew a sketch of Reimann as a tribute to a man he described as “one of the greatest club calf breeders in the country.”

Martens posted the sketch on Facebook and opened the original print up for auction. The auction was open for only 24 hours and raised $16,000. The winning bid was submitted by a group consisting of Luke Doris, Wade Rodgers, Brian Martin, John Griswold, John Sullivan, Todd Line, Brad Schnoor and the Greg Kroupa family. Martens plans to get the sketch made into a print and donate 50 percent of the sales to Reimann’s family. Prints will be available soon at

“The response to the print has been overwhelming,” said Martens. “I never thought that it would take off the way it did. It’s truly humbling to see your talents being appreciated by so many. It’s just awesome to see these folks reaching out to help Kyrstin, Croix and Cannon. Nick’s family will benefit from the sale of the original, as well as receive proceeds from the prints.”

The sketch took 10 hours to make and capturing the essence of Reimann – a man Martens had never met – was the biggest challenge.

“Having never met Nick, I knew I was up for a challenge,” he admitted. “I gathered as many photos as I could from social media and his website, I spent the first few hours just drawing Nick’s face. If it doesn’t look like the main subject, there’s no reason in moving forward. I shared the final rough draft with a few people that knew Nick well, and they said I captured him. After that, the rest was just finishing the composition and holding your breath until you knew his family liked it. His wife and mother are very pleased with how it turned out, and that’s all that matters to me. If my work makes you smile, brings happy tears, or pulls from a distant memory, then I consider it a success.”

“The livestock industry is full of giving people,” said Martens. “We nurture our animals far better than most would tend to believe. It’s just second nature to shift that care to our friends in need, as well.”