Ex-Oklahoma lawmaker dies in plane crash that killed 2 coaches

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A former Oklahoma state senator piloted the single-engine plane that crashed on a recruiting trip that killed four people including the Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coach and his assistant, the university announced Friday.

Olin Branstetter, 82, was the pilot and his wife Paula, 79, also was on the plane that crashed on Thursday in the Winona Wildlife Management Area near Perryville, Ark. Also onboard were Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna, the head coach and his assistant.

“This is obviously an incredibly devastating event,” Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis said at a news conference. “This is our worst nightmare.”

“To lose anyone, especially these two individuals who are incredible life forces in our family, it is worse beyond words,” he said later of the coaches.


In January 2001, 10 men affiliated with the university’s men’s basketball team died in a Colorado plane crash, an event that has been seared into the university’s memory, and prompted some changes such as more inspections of vehicles used to transport teams. But those changes don’t apply to trips taken just by coaches.

“When something like this happens and, God forbid it happened again, we have to pull together as a family,” Hargis said at the news conference. “We’ve got to try to do that,” he went on with a pause for tears.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, but it could be months before the agency issues its report.

The plane was registered to Branstetter, a former Republican state senator who served from 1987 to 1991.


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