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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.”
Serna, 36, was also devoted to OSU. 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.
The Branstetters also had ties to Oklahoma State. Jim Berscheidt, spokesman for the OSU Foundation, confirmed that the Branstetters established two scholarships at the university. He could not disclose how much was given to fund them. One was through the university’s College of Education and the other was through the business school.
FAA records showed the plane was built in 1964 and registered to Olin Branstetter. Oklahoma State spokesman Gary Shutt said the coaches were going to watch recruits playing in two games in Little Rock.
Perry County Sheriff Scott Montgomery said hunters called emergency officials about 4 p.m. Thursday after they heard the plane apparently in trouble, then saw it nosedive into a heavily wooded area. 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 Piper Cherokee Piper PA-28-180 (N7746W) 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.
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.
Associated Press photographers Sue Ogrocki in Stillwater and Danny Johnston in Perryville, Ark.; writers Jeff Latzke in Stillwater, Okla., and Ken Miller and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City; and AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg in New York contributed to this report.
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