A single-engine aircraft goes down in Arkansas, and a school is rocked by the second aviation tragedy to strike its basketball program in 10 years.
Oklahoma State head coach Kurt Budke (right) confers with guard Andrea Riley (left) during the 2008 NCAA Women's Regional basketball game in New Orleans. (Photo: Sean Gardner/Reuters)
A single-engine airplane crash in Arkansas on Thursday has claimed the lives of Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna. The pilot, former Oklahoma state Sen. Olin Branstetter, and his wife Paula, also died in the crash.
The nighttime crash is the second aviation tragedy to have rocked the Oklahoma State athletic program in the past 10 years. A 2001 plane crash in Colorado claimed the lives of 10 people affiliated with the men’s basketball program.
Budke and Serna were on a recruiting trip when the plane went down.
"The Oklahoma State family is devastated by this tragedy," said OSU President Burns Hargis. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna and the other victims.
"Kurt was an exemplary leader and a man of character who had a profound impact on his student-athletes," 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.
"Coach Budke elevated our women's basketball program to new levels of success," Hargis said. "He and his staff raised our profile in the nation's toughest conference."
"Miranda was an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model for our young ladies."
Weather played a part in the January 2001 crash, but with the skies clear and no weather issues in the area Thursday, it’s still unclear what caused the crash.
The school said associate head coach Jim Littell will take over for Budke, who was in his seventh season at OSU. The team has canceled two game scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Contact Terrance Harris at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris.