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Plane's pilot had big heart, family says

Megan (Grove) and D.J. Fischer pose for a picture just after getting engaged while flying in a plane in September 2013. (Photo courtesy of the Fischer family)

Their romance began in an airplane.

D.J. Fischer and Megan (Grove) Fischer, met at South Dakota State University and had a passion for the school. Their first date was spent in a plane, flying over campus.

Megan admits she must have seemed nervous on the plane during that date, because just after takeoff, D.J. put his hand on her knee and "made everything seem so right," she explained.

The couple eventually got engaged while flying in D.J.'s Piper Lance airplane, and they were married six weeks ago in Mexico.

On Sunday evening, a single-engine plane piloted by D.J. crashed in fog about 10 miles south of Highmore. D.J., 30, and three other men, all cattlemen, died in the crash. The other men in the plane were Brent Beitelspacher, 37, of Bowdle; Logan Rau, 25, of Java; and Nick Reimann, 33, of Ree Heights. The men were flying back from a cattle sale in Texas when they reached a foggy area near Highmore.

Megan, 27, a Mitchell High School graduate, responded to email questions Thursday to The Daily Republic about the death of her husband.

"First off, it is of utmost importance to note that I'm doing this because my husband deserves this recognition and I was so proud of who he was," she wrote.

The couple met in 2012 through mutual friends.

"We always joked that if we would have met when it was planned (in June 2010), it would never have worked out," Megan wrote in the email.

D.J., an experienced pilot, began his flying career while attending college at SDSU by getting his private pilot's license. The 6-foot-3, 278-pound defensive tackle played football for the Jackrabbits and logged most of his flight hours at Myrtle Beach, Va., towing aerial banners above the beach, according to his obituary that published in Thursday's edition of The Daily Republic. By 2007, he moved back to his hometown of Gettysburg and became a commercial ag pilot for Air Kraft Spraying, of Timber Lake.

"He was very busy with working at Air Kraft Spraying," said Chet Edinger, a Mitchell farmer who is married to Megan's mother. "And his business on the side, a spray foam (insulation) business for houses, buildings and grain bins."

Before getting married, D.J. and Megan first became friends on Facebook. Then they met in person and "sparks flew from the start."

They married in March.

"There is nothing better than having your daughter marry a great guy," Edinger said. "And when your daughter marries an excellent individual, and then loses him six weeks later, it is devastating and tragic on all accounts."

Megan is holding up fairly well, Edinger said, for which her family is grateful and proud -- "proud of her strength as she goes through this terrible tragedy."

"D.J. would want me to be strong through this so I'm doing my best to do just that for him," Megan wrote.

She and D.J. saw each other three more times that week of their first date, despite it being D.J.'s busiest time of year.

"It truly was love at first sight, and I knew the minute I met him that he was the one for me," she wrote.

Megan admired her husband's ability to touch the lives of everyone he knew. He was well-respected, had a "a soft touch and little smirk," she wrote, and everyone loved him -- especially his nieces and nephews. When with friends and their children, he'd head straight for the kids and tickle them and make funny noises, "which, of course, put them into giggles," Megan wrote. "He adored kids."

He also loved serving his community as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician. The instant a call came in, D.J. was out the door, Megan wrote.

She said she is doing OK. Both her family and D.J.'s are in Gettysburg preparing for a prayer service, which is at 7 p.m. today at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and the funeral, which is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gettysburg School Gym.

"Our families are all together and leaning on each other right now, along with countless friends and complete strangers," Megan wrote.

She is also mourning for her husband's family. They are going through the extra heartache of suffering the loss of D.J. after losing D.J.'s father in 2000.

The agricultural community also suffered a great loss with the death of all four aboard D.J.'s plane. The three passengers "were tops in the cattle industry," Edinger said, "and D.J. was an extremely busy aerial applicator, one of the busier spray pilots around."

Megan is also saddened by the loss of the three passengers in the plane.

"My broken heart hurts for the wives, families and friends of the three other souls on board," she wrote. "We are thinking and praying for all of them at this incredibly difficult time."

D.J.'s and Megan's families have received many calls, text messages and messages via social media over the last several days, which Edinger said has helped ease the pain of losing D.J.

"He was just a big guy with a big heart," Edinger said.