Don Oppliger, one of the largest agribusiness operators in the west central U.S., was killed over the June 3 weekend in a helicopter crash in Castro County, Texas.Oppliger, a Nebraska native who was born in Columbus in 1949 and attended the University of Nebraska , established farms, feedlots and ranches across some 150,000 acres of Texas, New Mexico and Nebraska.
According to the Eastern New Mexico News, Parmer County Sheriff Randy Geries said Oppliger was flying the helicopter with no other occupants.
The cause of the crash was not immediately apparent.
He died doing something he loved, his family said in his obituary. Aside from attending Nebraska Cornhusker games, farming and flying were his favorite hobbies.
At one time, Oppliger owned one of the largest farms in Nebraska, raising corn, soybeans, potatoes and cattle in the southern hills of Lincoln County.
He built a large potato warehouse connected to a railroad line on the outskirts of Wallace, and shipped the potatoes to processors in southwestern states.
Funeral services will be held Thursday, June 8, at Polk Street United Methodist Church in Amarillo, Texas, with burial in the Farwell Cemetery in Farwell, N.M.
Oppliger began his agri-business career in 1980 with rented farmland in Hereford, Texas, according to his obituary.
That former Oppliger farm in Lincoln County is owned today by the NCORPE agency and is used to pump underground water into the Republican River, and soon, the Platte River.
The Oppliger companies started with a 15,000 head feedlot outside Farwell, N.M. and grew apidly in size to include six large-scale feedlots, more than 55,000 acres of irrigated farmland, a dairy and thousands of acres of ranch land," according to the company website.
Oppliger acquired a 35,000 head feedlot near Clovis in 1991 and expanded into Lincoln County in 1998, acquiring the sizeable farm that was once owned by the Prudential Insurance company, and adding a feedlot of more than 55,000 head.
Oppliger sold 19,000 acres of the Lincoln County Farm in 2008 to a Delaware corporation, but kept 5,522 acres of agricultural land, plus 18 houses and/or lots in the village of Wallace as well as a house and three lots near North Platte, according to Lincoln County records.
Survivors include his wife Joi and a son Ben in Amarillo, as well as three sisters who live in Nebraska -- Rita Peters and husband Don of Elkhorn, Diane Thompson and husband Joe, of Lincoln, and Phyllis Olson and husband Ralph, of Columbus.
This report was updated Tuesday, June 6. - Editor.