Friday, November 18, 2011

Tragedy Hits OSU Basketball Again As Kurt Budke, Miranda Serna Among Four Dead In Plane Crash; Retired Senator Olin Branstetter Reported As Pilot

Oklahoma State University women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna died in a plane crash late Thursday in Central Arkansas. Two other passengers also died.

Bob Barry Jr. of KFOR-TV Sports, reported the pilot was retired Senator Olin Branstetter, 82, of Ponca City. Also killed was Branstetter's wife, Paula. Branstetter, a successful oilman, had been an active member and officer of the Ponca City Aviation Club for years.

Budke and Serna were on a recruiting trip to Arkansas when the single-engine plane, a Piper, crashed in Perry County 45 miles west of Little Rock and 4 miles south of Perryville in the Winona Wildlife Management Area.

Perry County Sheriff Scott Montgomery said the plane went straight into the hillside.

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.

The Branstetter Scholarship at OSU is, the OSU website reports, really a reflection of the personal philosophy of Olin and Paula Branstetter, who met as students at OSU in the 1950s.

"We believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things," Olin said. It was that "can do" attitude that caused Paula to join her husband in learning flying for both business and pleasure when they were both in the forties. It was that same spirited enthusiasm that caused Paula, Olin and their son Jack to undertake a family aviation outing one summer—to the North Pole.

On June 19, 1984, Paula Branstetter set a world's record as she became the first woman to fly over the Magnetic North Pole in a single engine aircraft. Olin and Jack shared their world's record; they are the first men to fly over the pole in a single engine, factory-built stock aircraft. Together they become the first family to fly over the Magnetic North Pole.

"We took off to explore the arctic in a single engine plane because that was the plane we had at the time," Olin explained. "Our point was that with faith we three ordinary people could do something extraordinary and do it without an army or a navy, just our own resources."

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