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Red River Valley Sugarbeet board member dies in one-car crash; driver faces felony charges

Jason Schatzke, treasurer of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association, died in a car crash Saturday, Nov. 12. The driver of the vehicle, Christopher Thompson, is charged with two felony counts of injury or death resulting from driving under the influence.

Schatzke
Jason Schatzke died in a car crash. He was the treasurer of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association. Photo taken May 10, 2022, in Wheatland, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek file photo
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EDINBURG, N.D. — The treasurer of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association died in a single-vehicle crash Saturday evening, Nov. 12, in Walsh County, and the driver is facing two felony charges of injury or death resulting from driving under the influence.

Jason Schatzke, 48, of Wheatland, North Dakota, was killed in the crash.

According to a report from the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Christopher Ryan Thompson, 46, of Grafton, North Dakota, was driving a 2022 GMC Yukon when it left Walsh County Road 9 near the intersection of 133rd Avenue Northeast and struck a tree about 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.

The road was snow-covered at the time. Schatzke, a passenger, died at the scene, about 4 miles east of Edinburg.

Thompson, who was not injured in the crash, is vice president of the Sugarbeet Research and Education Board. Last week, he was elected to the Walsh County Commission.

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There were six people in the vehicle when it crashed. Schatzke was not wearing a seat belt, while the others were wearing seat belts. Another passenger, Rodney Olson, of Halstad, Minnesota, suffered minor injuries.

Uninjured passengers were Brent Baldwin, of St. Thomas, North Dakota; Anita Olson, of Halstad; and Tanya Schatzke, of Wheatland.

A man in a white Titleist cap and a maroon sweatshirt looks at the camera. He has strawberry blonde hair.
Christopher Thompson
Courtesy / Sugarbeet Research and Education Board

Officers said they detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from Thompson, according to a criminal complaint. Officers also said Thompson had glossy red eyes and "slight slurred speech," the complaint said.

Thompson acknowledged having five or six beers throughout the night, according to the complaint.

Court documents said Thompson consented to doing a blood draw to determine his blood alcohol content, but the complaint didn't say what that percentage was.

Thompson was booked into the Walsh County Jail after the crash, but was out of custody as of Monday, Nov. 14. Bond for Thompson was set at $50,000, but he could be released from jail if he paid $5,000 in cash.

Thompson was charged Monday in Walsh County with two counts of injury or death resulting from driving under the influence. One count is a Class A felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and the other count is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. A phone message left for Thompson's attorney, Todd Burianek, was not immediately returned Monday.

Thompson's first appearance in the case is scheduled for Dec. 13 in front of Northeast District Judge Barbara Whelan.

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The crash remains under investigation by the North Dakota Highway Patrol and Walsh County Sheriff's Department.

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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