Plane crash kills two OSU women's basketball coaches, ex-state senator and his wife
Crash a "profound loss" for Oklahoma State University, NCAA president says
It's the second fatal plane crash for OSU basketball since 2001
The school calls off games for Saturday and Sunday
Family, friends, faculty and students packed Oklahoma State University’s gym on Monday, remembering women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna in the place they toiled for years before dying in a plane crash last week.
Former Oklahoma state Sen. Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula, also died in the crash Thursday, university spokesman Gary Schutt said.
“It’s a terribly sad day,” he said.
The crash occurred in Perry County, Arkansas, leaving no survivors.
The plane, a Piper Cherokee PA-28, according to FAA records, crashed under “unknown circumstances” in a wooded area about four miles south of Perryville, Arkansas, about 4:30 p.m. CT on Thursday, agency spokesman Lynn Lunsford said Friday.
No additional information about the crash was immediately available.
The National Transportation Safety Board has sent investigators to the crash site, the agency said Friday.
The university canceled classes around the service so students could attend. It also was open to the public.
“For any coaching community to lose bright stars like Kurt and Miranda is tragic,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “This is a profound loss for the Oklahoma State women’s basketball family, the entire university and future women’s basketball players as well.”
University officials credited Budke for turning around the school’s women’s basketball program, culminating with a top-10 national ranking and an appearance in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season. Married with three children, he was in his seventh season with the school.
“Kurt was an exemplary leader and a man of character who had a profound impact on his student-athletes,” Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis said. “He was an outstanding coach and a wonderful person. We send our deepest sympathies to his wife, Shelley, and their children, Sara, Alex and Brett.”
Serna was also in her seventh season with OSU after coming to the school to work for Budke from Louisana Tech, where they both previously worked. She served as the program’s recruiting coordinator, according to the school.
Hargis called her “an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model for our young ladies.”
“Its our worst nightmare,” he added.
The school called off games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, and grief counselors were on hand for athletes and staff, the university said.
Jim Littell, the team’s associate head coach, will take over as interim head coach, according to Mike Holder, OSU vice president for athletics.
The crash was the second fatal plane crash to strike the Cowboys basketball program in nearly 11 years.
Ten people, eight of them associated with the university’s men’s basketball program, died when their aircraft crashed in Colorado during a snowstorm on January 28, 2001.