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UPDATE: OSU Women's Coaches Killed in Plane Crash (Nov 18, 2011)

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - Oklahoma State University says women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash in central Arkansas.

The university said Friday that the two were on a recruiting trip to Arkansas when the plane crashed near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock.

Perry County Sheriff Scott Montgomery says the plane went straight into the hillside late Thursday afternoon. The sheriff says a witness heard the small plane's engine sputtering, then saw it go into a spiral and crash nose first. The plane clipped some treetops before impact.

Montgomery said nearby hunters were first on the scene and led rescuers to the crash site. Montgomery says the first deputy to reach the scene told him it was likely there were no survivors. All four aboard were killed, including assistant coach Miranda Serna.

The crash occurred about 45 miles northwest of Little Rock.

OSU said in a press conference 82-year-old former State Sen. Olin Branstetter piloted the plane. His wife was also a passenger on the plane.

Branstetter was a one-term Republican state senator who served from 1987 to 1991. He was an avid pilot who once flew with his wife over the North Pole in their single-engine aircraft.

Ponca City Airport Manager Don Nuzum says the couple frequently used their airplane to conduct "angel flights," in which they flew cancer patients from the area to hospitals around the country.

Oklahoma State's president is calling on the campus to pull together as a family as the university grieves the loss.

President Burns Hargis told reporters on Friday that the school does not know the cause of the crash.

Hargis says their deaths are the university's "worst nightmare" and he asks the community to come together during this tragic time.

Former Oklahoma State University men's basketball coach Eddie Sutton says the plane crash brings back painful memories.

Sutton was head coach when 10 men associated with the men's team died in a January 2001 plane crash in Colorado while returning from a game.

Sutton said Friday there isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't remember the 2001 crash and that Thursday's crash makes it worse.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator says it could take a year or longer to learn the cause of a small plane crash that killed two Oklahoma State women's basketball coaches and two other people aboard.

NTSB Investigator Jason Aguilera said Friday the agency will release a preliminary report in five days, but the full investigative report - and a conclusion on the cause - will take much longer to develop.Aguilera says it is sometimes possible to salvage a GPS unit and reconstruct the flight path.

The aircraft will be reassembled at an air services facility in Clinton, Ark., where investigators will try to figure out what doomed the flight.

 



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