STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State University students, faculty and staff will gather Monday to remember two women’s basketball coaches and two others who died when their airplane crashed into a wooded hillside in central Arkansas.
A memorial service will be held at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater for head coach Kurt Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna, alumnus Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula.
Branstetter was flying the single-engine Piper Cherokee when it crashed late Thursday afternoon near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock.
Budke and Serna’s deaths come more than a decade after two men’s basketball players and eight others associated with that program were killed in a January 2001 plane crash in Colorado.
“Certainly, it’s a little early, we’re still kind of recovering from this, but we’ll certainly look at the policy,” spokesman Gary Shutt said Sunday. “Any time you have a terrible accident like this, definitely you look at the policy.”
Changes were made to the travel policy after that tragedy. There was a new rule requiring two pilots to be on board for all OSU travel involving student athletes and a requirement that team aircraft be powered by two or more turbine engines. But Shutt said the policy doesn’t apply to recruiting trips for coaches, who were allowed to make travel arrangements at their own discretion.
Budke and Serna were flying to Little Rock to watch two prospective recruits play in a game, two days before the Cowgirls were scheduled to play two weekend games, Shutt said.
“Obviously the high school season coincides with the college season, so if you want to go see players, you need to have the flexibility and ability to make quick trips,” Shutt said.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, already has ruled out weather as a factor. Investigators were still trying to determine whether the pilot radioed for help before the plane went down, NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said.
According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Branstetter passed a medical examination, was certified to be a commercial pilot and was flight-instrument rated.
“Every pilot, regardless of age, is required to have a medical exam a minimum of every two years, and every pilot must also do a check ride with a certified instructor every two years,” FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said. “That means you have to both prove that you’re medically fit to fly, as well as ride with someone who can sign off on your abilities to handle the duties that come with being a pilot.”
Shutt said it was his understanding that Branstetter hadn’t taken coaches on any other flights before Thursday’s crash. Branstetter, a former state senator, was an Oklahoma State University alumnus and donated to scholarships at the school, Shutt said.
The Cowgirls were scheduled to play Grambling State on Saturday and Texas-Arlington on Sunday, but those games were canceled.
Associate head coach Jim Littell has been named interim head coach. The next game is set for this coming Saturday.
“The intent is to resume the season at some point,” Shutt said. “(Team officials) will assess things and move forward as quickly as they can.”