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Contact with OSU aircraft was lost before it went down, investigator says
DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- The small plane that crashed Saturday night, killing all 10 people aboard, lost radio contact and disappeared from controllers' radar screens before it went down in Colorado, a federal official told CNN Sunday.
The plane also was flying under conditions in which ice could have built up on the wings, officials said.
The plane, carrying two Oklahoma State University men's basketball players, six others affiliated with the team, a pilot and a copilot, crashed in an open field on a farm about 30 miles east of Denver about 5:30 p.m.
It had taken off from Jefferson County Airport in Broomfield, Colorado, between Boulder, Colorado, and Denver.
'Radio communications were lost'
"Shortly after takeoff, radar and radio communications were lost," said Greg Feith, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, which is handling the crash probe.
The aircraft was under control of the Denver International Airport tower when it took off. "Radio and radar contact were lost with Denver at 23,000 feet," an official in the Denver tower told CNN.
OSU officials said they had canceled a men's basketball game that had been scheduled for Tuesday night against Texas Tech University. "There's a lot of pain," said OSU spokesman Steve Bosserman. "You just pour your hearts and your prayers to those family members who have lost people who are so important to them and to us."
He said the university was sending three representatives to the crash site Sunday.
Weather will be one of the chief areas investigators will examine at the crash site in the Denver suburb of Byers on Sunday, the NTSB's Feith said. Bob Benson was assigned as the lead NTSB investigator.
The NTSB's so-called go-team landed at Denver airport and was expected to arrive at the crash scene about noon Sunday.
Plane was one of three carrying team members
The aircraft that crashed was one of three carrying the men's basketball team and others from the school back to Stillwater, Oklahoma, after a Saturday game against the University of Colorado at Boulder. Oklahoma State lost 81-71.
Feith said snow and in-flight icing conditions prevailed when the 25-year-old twin-engine Beech King Air 200 took off. The plane has extensive deicing capability, including devices to reduce ice on the wings and propellers in flight.
Feith said there were reports of turbulence below 34,000 feet above sea level. According to the manufacturer, the King Air can fly as high as 35,000 feet.
The National Weather Service reported visibility was 1.5 miles Saturday evening.
Radio and radar communications were lost 20 to 30 minutes after takeoff, Feith said.
NTSB investigators will interview air traffic controllers and check aircraft systems, structures and power sources to see if they can find evidence of malfunction. "All of these will be looked at to determine what factors may have been involved that led to the event," Feith said.
The Beech King Air 200, which has a capacity for nine passengers and two cockpit members, was registered to North Bay Charter LLC of Reno, Nevada, in November 1999. A cockpit voice recorder is standard equipment on the plane and it was believed to also have a flight data recorder as well.
Memorial planned for later this week
In Oklahoma on Sunday, Gov. Frank Keating ordered state flags flown at half-staff, and university officials in Stillwater planned memorial services later in the week.
"It's the most tragic event I've ever experienced in my university administration," said James Halligan, OSU president. "It's particularly tragic with players."
The players who died were 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.
Mills of Oklahoma City was certified as an airline transport pilot, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. That means Mills had the same certification as pilots of large commercial airlines.
Small plane crashes outside of Denver
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