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Wendy Reuer, Published April 23 2014

Valley City gathers to remember student who drowned

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Just as the sun set on a cold and rainy gray sky here Wednesday night, stadium lights suddenly illuminated the Valley City State University football field, where more than 250 students, staff and city residents gathered as a memorial to baseball standout and VCSU senior Dan Buehner.

Buehner is believed to have drowned after a rubber raft carrying him and two fellow students went over the “Little Dam” of the Sheyenne River through town and capsized around 1 a.m. Monday.

Local search and rescue crews spent much of the day looking for Buehner in hopes he had survived like his fellow students, but his body was found Tuesday morning.

After a memorial inside the W.E. Osmon Fieldhouse on the VCSU campus, the mourners went outside to release red and white balloons that had personal messages scrawled on them remembering the student and standout baseball player.

Inside, the crowd consisting of longtime Valley City residents, VCSU students, staff and area college baseball teammates and coaches that sat shoulder to shoulder as individuals remembered the 23-year-old.

“I’m proud to say I’m a Viking,” said VCSU Senior Kayle Hamre, an Enderlin, N.D., native and outfielder on the baseball team. “It’s been amazing how everyone has been able to come together.”

Buehner’s friends painted a picture of the No. 15 catcher, who was known to most by an array of nicknames he happily answered to that described him as a softspoken but straight-talking personality. He valued hard work and dedication. He was majoring in business administration.

“He wanted to be the best and he worked hard at it,” Hamre said.

Friends who knew Buehner said Wednesday that he could be stubborn and “stuck in his ways” but he was the first to make new teammates feel welcome and was as loyal to those who got to know him as he was to baseball. In a montage of pictures shown Wednesday, most showed Buehner on the field as a catcher or smiling with friends.

Members of the Vikings women’s softball team said he and his team had become brothers to them. Buehner looked out for them and was “just one of those kids you’ll never forget.”

Some said they were still in shock over the loss of Buehner. The school has said counselors are available to students and staff.

Memorial services for Buehner, a Blaine, Minn., native, have not yet been announced. He is survived by his mother, father and an older sister.

On Wednesday, VSCU head coach Casey Olney read a letter from Buehner’s father, who thanked the school and city for all of their support and kind words.

“It is amazing how the entire town has been there for us in our time of need,” his father wrote. “There is no great comfort now. But knowing he was loved is helping.”

Buehner’s father also asked that the team – who had cancelled games Tuesday and Wednesday – play on Saturday in honor of his son who was proud to be a part of the Vikings’ legacy.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530