- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

STILLWATER, Okla., Jan. 23 (UPI) — The pilot of a plane that crashed two years ago killing 10 people associated with the Oklahoma State University basketball team was disoriented, the National Transportation Safety Board reported Thursday.

There was also an electrical failure on the Beech King Air 200 before the twin-engine plane crashed in a snow-covered field near Strasburg, Colo., Jan. 27, 2001, on a flight to Stillwater following a game at the University of Colorado, the report said.

The probable cause was "the pilot's spatial disorientation resulting from his failure to maintain positive manual control of the airplane with the available flight instrumentation," the board ruled.

Although the electrical failure was "a contributing factor," the NTSB said the pilot should have been able to maintain control and land the plane with other instruments and controls. He should have been aware of the power loss, the report stated.

The plane's estimated flight path in the final two minutes of flight was consistent with a steep spiral resulting from spatial disorientation, the investigators reported.

The NTSB was critical of OSU's air transportation policy at the time of the accident though it did not blame the policy for the crash. The board praised changes made since the crash to increase oversight of university-sponsored flights.

At the time of the accident, OSU's flight department had no records on file regarding the pilots or the plane, as required by OSU policy, and, as the accident flight was a donated flight, it was not coordinated with the department manager, as were charter flights and flights involving university airplanes.

OSU has since adopted a revised, comprehensive transportation management system that ensures the necessary oversight for athletic team and other school-sponsored travel. The board suggested that the nation's colleges adopt a model-policy for such travel programs in the future.

The King Air crashed 20 minutes after takeoff following a basketball game with Colorado at Boulder. It was one of three planes transporting OSU players and associates back to Stillwater. The other players and staff reached home safely only to learn about the crash.

Killed were Denver Mills, the pilot; basketball players Nate Fleming and Daniel Lawson; publicist Will Hancock; basketball operations director Pat Noyes; trainer Brian Luinstra; Manager Jared Weiberg; radio engineer Kendall Durfey; broadcaster Bill Teegins; and co-pilot Bjorn Fahlstrom.

OSU issued a statement after the report was released.

"No report can mitigate the loss of 10 men or comfort 10 families who lost a son, father, husband or brother," the university stated. "Our sympathy and support for these families continues as we approach the second anniversary of the accident."

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