Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Amarillo businessman Don Oppliger dies in helicopter crash

By Ronald Balaskovitz

  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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