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4:30pm ET, 4/16


Witness of Oklahoma State University plane crash describes 'ball of fire'

BYERS, Colorado (CNN) -- The first person on the scene of a plane crash Saturday night that killed members of the Oklahoma State University basketball program said a ball of flame stopped him and his sons from trying to rescue anyone.

"We tried to see if we could see any life, but there was none," Larry Pearson, a dairy farmer in the suburb of Byers, told CNN on Sunday. "It hit so hard. You could see the tail section, probably 50 yards from where the plane was burning, but you couldn't see any life."

The twin-engine Beech King Air 200 went down about 30 miles east of Denver during a light snow. It was one of three small aircraft carrying members of the Oklahoma State University basketball team and staff. The other two planes arrived safely at their destination in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Saturday night.


Pearson said he and his three adult sons were outside tending their cattle when they heard the plane.

"It sounded like a plane in the war movies where planes are going straight down. Next thing we knew, it was a ball of fire," said Pearson, whose farm is about 50 miles from the airport in Jefferson County, Colorado, where the planes took off. "The minute we saw it, we called 911."

Among the crash victims were two players: 20-year-old Nate Fleming , a freshman guard, and junior guard Dan Lawson , 21, according to university officials.

OSU officials said the other victims were play-by-play announcer Bill Teegins; broadcast engineer Kendall Durfey; sports information employee Will Hancock; director of basketball operations Pat Noyes ; trainer Brian Luinstra ; student manager Jared Weiberg ; pilot Denver Mills; and co-pilot Bjorn Falistrom.

Greg Feith of the National Transportation Safety Board said an investigation into the cause of the crash was under way.

"We'll have our experts looking at the aircraft system structures to see if there is any evidence of mechanical malfunction or failure that may have caused or contributed to the accident," Feith told CNN.

The NTSB official said investigators also would be looking at "the pilots and their operation of the aircraft and, of course, the weather conditions."

"All of these will be looked at to determine what factors may have been involved that led to this tragic event."

Small plane crashes outside of Denver
January 27, 2001

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