National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jason Aguilera said it would issue a preliminary report in five days, but it could be more than a year before the agency’s investigation is complete.
The weather at the time was clear. The plane didn’t have flight data or voice recorders, Aguilera said, but it’s possible a GPS unit might be recovered and used to reconstruct the flight’s path.
FAA records showed the plane was built in 1964 and registered to Branstetter. Oklahoma State spokesman Gary Shutt said the coaches were going to watch recruits playing in two games in Little Rock.
For some, the news brought back emotions felt a decade ago.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about one of those guys,” said Eddie Sutton, the OSU men’s basketball coach at the time of the 2001 crash. “It’s emotional, believe me. This brings back a lot of unpleasantness.”
The Jan. 27, 2001, crash occurred about 35 minutes after the plane took off in light snow. The Beechcraft King Air 200 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.
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.
“Our players right now are totally devastated,” Littell said. “They loved coach Budke, they loved coach Serna. A lot of the reason that a lot of these kids are here are because of those two people. Coach Serna was a tireless worker and got those kids believing in her. So, obviously they’re hurting because we’ve lost two tremendous people to the OSU family.”
The university hired Budke from Louisiana Tech seven years ago and the Salina, Kan., native compiled a 112-83 record with three trips to the NCAA tournament. This year’s team was 1-0 after defeating Rice on Sunday.
Budke coached Serna and Trinity Valley to a junior college national title in 1996. Serna went on to play for Houston before returning to the community college to become an assistant coach under Budke. He also had Serna on his staff at Louisiana Tech and Oklahoma State. She was the recruiting coordinator for the Cowgirls.
Budke agreed to a five-year contract extension through June 2017 last year and said at the time: “This is where I want to be the rest of my life. This is where I want to finish my career.”
“His zeal for Oklahoma State was uncomparable. He loved this place. He loved this place, he loved coming in here every day,” Littell said.
“This was his dream situation,” he added.
Serna, 36, bought into it, too. Top coaches around the country considered her one of the better young recruiters, but she stuck with Budke as the Cowgirls rose from a losing program into one that made the postseason five years in a row.
“She worked hard. She believed in him. That’s why she stayed. … She had some opportunities to look at some other jobs, but she wanted to bring in players and help him win at Oklahoma State,” said Carlene Mitchell, another of Budke’s former players from Trinity Valley who’s now the coach at UC Santa Barbara.