STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed when the single-engine plane they were riding in during a recruiting trip crashed near a wildlife management area in central Arkansas.
The university said the pair died in the crash Thursday night near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock. The Winona Wildlife Management Area is in steep terrain in the eastern Ouachita Mountains. A cause of the crash was not announced.
In January 2001, 10 men affiliated with the university’s men’s basketball team died in a Colorado plane crash.
OSU said the plane’s pilot and another passenger also died in Thursday’s crash. Their names were not released and OSU said they were not associated with the university.
“There were no survivors,” the university statement said.
The Perry County Sheriff’s Department said the crash occurred just before 7 p.m. about 4 miles south of Perryville. FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said an immediate search revealed that at least two were dead. The school’s statement Friday put the death toll at four.
Lunsford said the plane was a single-engine Piper PA-28.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending investigators, and that it could take nine months to determine the cause of the crash.
OSU hired Budke from Louisiana Tech seven years ago and the coach compiled a 112-83 record at the school. This year’s team was 1-0 after defeating Rice on Sunday.
Oklahoma State canceled its women’s college basketball home games set for Saturday and Sunday. The school’s second-ranked college football team plays Friday night at Iowa State.
University president Burns Hargis credited Budke with elevating the team in a tough program. Serna, he said, set a good example for the players.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of Kurt Budke, Miranda Serna and the other victims “Kurt was an exemplary leader and a man of character who had a profound impact on his student-athletes,” Hargis said. “Miranda was an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model for our young ladies.”
On Jan. 27, 2001, one of three planes carrying players and others connected to the OSU men’s basketball team crashed in a field 40 miles east of Denver as the Cowboys returned from a game at Colorado. The crash occurred about 35 minutes after the plane took off in light snow.
An NTSB report cited a power loss aboard the plane and said the pilot suffered disorientation while flying the plane manually with still-available instruments.
Thursday night, the weather near the crash site was clear with temperatures in the upper 30s to mid-40s.
The plane that crashed in 2001, a Beechcraft King Air 200, had been donated by a school booster.
After that crash, the university began requiring a firm to check out the condition of any plane used by a school sports team. It wasn’t immediately known if that policy also applied to planes that carry only coaches or other school employees.