Weather was not a factor in the recent high-profile crash that killed two Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coaches last week, according to NTSB investigators.
Former Oklahoma state Senator Olin Branstetter was flying the Cherokee 180 carrying the coaches when it crashed nose-first into a wooded area in central Arkansas on Thursday. All four people on board were killed, including the 82-year-old pilot, his 79-year-old wife Paula, who was also a pilot, and OSU women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Sernawere.
The Cherokee was en route from Stillwater to Little Rock when it went down. Investigators say they have not yet found any evidence of distress calls from the airplane. Witnesses have reported hearing a sputtering sound before watching the Cherokee nose-dive into a wildlife management area approximately 45 miles west of Little Rock.
According to the NTSB, investigators are looking into a number of potential factors in the crash, including the pilot’s medical history and a possible loss of control. According to investigators, the “very nose-down pattern” of the crash indicates the latter was likely. Weather, however, has been ruled out as a potential cause, as the skies were reportedly clear and the winds calm.
Branstetter and his wife were active pilots and set a record for flying over the North Pole 30 years ago in the Cherokee 180 involved in the crash.
OSU says it is revisiting its travel policy as a result of the accident, which comes a decade after two men’s basketball players from the school and eight others linked to the program were killed in the crash of a King Air 200.