STILLWATER, Okla. - Oklahoma State University officials announced Friday the deaths of two of the school's coaching staff.
Women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant women's basketball coach Miranda Serna were killed Thursday in a plane crash in Perry County, Ark.
"The Oklahoma State family is devastated by this tragedy," said OSU President Burns Hargis in a statement emailed to our newsroom. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of Kurt Budke, Miranda Serna and the other victims."
Hargis continued, "Kurt was an exemplary leader and a man of character who had a profound impact on his student-athletes. He was an outstanding coach and a wonderful person. We send out deepest sympathies to his wife Shelley, and their children, Sara, Alex and Brett."
Budke and Serna were on a recruiting trip to Arkansas.
Lynn Lunsford, Federal Aviation Administration public affairs manager, said the single-engine Piper PA-28 Cherokee went down four miles south of Perryville, Ark. around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.
The first call to emergency responders came from hunters who witnessed the plane go down in the heavily wooded area. University officials were notified of the accident overnight. OSU representatives and officers with the Stillwater Police Department are en route to the crash scene.
The airplane is registered to former State Sen. Olin Branstetter, of Ponca City.
In a press conference Friday morning, OSU officials confirmed Branstetter and his wife Paula were also onboard the plane with Olin serving as pilot. Both were killed in the accident.
According to OSU's website, the Branstetters were previous donors to the university.
Mike Holder, OSU vice president for athletics, said, "We are shocked by this terrible loss. Kurt Budke was an incredibly positive influence on his players and was a tremendous coach. He quickly turned our program and put Cowgirl basketball on the map. Miranda was a tireless worker and great recruiter.
Holder said Jim Littell, associate head coach, will assume duties as interim head coach.
Hargis said, "Miranda was an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model for our young ladies."
Budke was in his seventh season as Cowgirl coach, with an all-time record of 112-83. His team was 1-0 after a victory over Rice Sunday.
Under his direction, OSU made postseason appearances each of the past five seasons, including three trips to the NCAA tournament.
OSU counselors and athletic staff are offering assistance to the Cowgirl student-athletes and staff.
OSU officials say the Cowgirls will not play Saturday and Sunday's scheduled games. The OSU wrestling team has also also canceled its weekend matches.
A memorial service will likely take place Monday.
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This comes on the heels of the 10-year anniversary of a plane crash that killed nearly a dozen people from the OSU men's basketball program.
On January 27, 2001, a small charter plane carrying two players and eight staff members went down shortly after takeoff in Colorado.
The Cowboys were on their way back to Stillwater after losing 81-71 to the Colorado Buffaloes earlier that day.