Oklahoma State College

November 19, 2011 by staff 

Oklahoma State College, Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and his assistant were killed Thursday afternoon when the single-engine plane transporting them on a recruiting trip crashed in steep terrain in Arkansas.

Budke and Miranda Serna died in the accident in the Winona Wildlife Management Area near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock.

The pilot, 82-year-old former Oklahoma state Senator Olin Branstetter, and his 79-year-old wife, Paula, also died when the plane sputtered, spiraled out of control, and nosedived into the forest.

There were no survivors.

“This is our worst nightmare,’’ OSU president Burns Hargis said at a news conference. “The entire OSU family is very close, very close indeed. To lose anyone, especially these two individuals who are incredible life forces in our family, it is worse beyond words.’’

The crash is the second major tragedy for the sports program in about a decade. In January 2001, 10 men affiliated with the university’s men’s basketball team died in a Colorado plane crash.

“When something like this happens and, God forbid it happened again, we have to pull together as a family. We’ve got to try to do that,’’ Hargis said, as he broke down in tears.

After the 2001 crash, the university required that planes used by the school’s sports teams undergo safety checks before travel. Hargis said coaches were not bound by the same rules and that the school left such decisions to their discretion.

Hargis called Budke “an exemplary leader and man of character,’’ and credited him with elevating the team in a tough program. Serna, he said, was “an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model’’ for the players. Former assistant coach Jim Littell will serve as interim head coach.

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