The head coach and an assistant coach of the Oklahoma State University women's basketball team were killed Thursday evening in a small plane crash in Arkansas.
Kurt Budke, Miranda Serna and two others died when the single-engine, four-seat Piper PA-28 Cherokee crashed about four miles south of Perryville. That's about 30 miles northwest of Little Rock.
Budke and Serna were on a recruiting trip to Arkansas. Hunters reported seeing the plane go down in a heavily wooded area around 4 p.m. and called 911. The Perry County Sheriff's Office arrived at the crash site around 6 p.m.
After confirming the identities of everyone on board, authorities contacted the university.
Also killed in the crash were Olin and Paula Branstetter. The Branstetters were OSU alumi. Both were certified pilots, but authorities say Mr. Branstetter was piloting the plane.
Investigators don't know yet what caused the crash.
"The Oklahoma State family is devastated by this tragedy," said OSU President Burns Hargis. "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. He was an outstanding coach and a wonderful person."
The team was informed of the tragedy early Friday morning. Budke, 50, had coached for six seasons at OSU. He was married with three children.
Serna had also been at OSU for six seasons. She worked under Coach Budke at Louisiana Tech and came with him when he moved to OSU. Hargis called her an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model.
Mike Holder, the OSU vice president for athletics, said associate head coach Jim Little will assume duties as interim head coach. The Cowgirls were scheduled to play games Saturday and Sunday, but those games have been canceled. OSU is offering counseling to the athletes and staff.
This is the second plane crash to claim members of the OSU basketball family. On January 27, 2001, 10 members of the men's basketball team were killed in a plane crash in Colorado, including News 9 Sports Director Bill Teegins.
Players, coaches, fans and friends pay respects to Coach Budke and Coach Serna on Twitter:
Marshall Moses: (Former OSU basketball player)
"Coach Budke was an EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT coach, and Coach Serna believed in me when no one else did. She always encouraged me."
Justin Blackmon: (OSU wide receiver)
"Thoughts and prayers go out to Budke and Serna family."
Mike Gundy: (OSU Head Football Coach)
"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Kurt and Miranda."
Brandon Weeden: (OSU quarterback)
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the Budke and Serna families. Two great people."
Kenny Mossman: (OU Associate Athletic Director)
"No rivalry today. Just hurting friends. We hurt with them."
Peter Uihlein: (Former OSU golfer)
"RIP Coach Budke and Coach Serna. Entire OSU family lost two great people last night. Thoughts and prayers go out to their families."
Robert Allen: (OSU Football sideline reporter)
"Absolutely as sad as news can be. Kurt Budke and Coach Serna full of life. I teased Coach Budke about being mayor of Stillwater. Prayers and Love"
Gavin Lang: (OSU Athletics Associate Director of Communications)
"Kurt Budke was a great man and a great coach. Miranda Serna was as nice as they come. Crushed for their families."
Andrew McGee: (Former OSU football player)
"Wow, I can't believe this! Praying for the Budke family, and the OSU girls basketball team."
CowgirlTennis: (OSU Women's Tennis Team)
"OSU has lost two great people. There are no words to express our feelings about Kurt and Miranda except to say how much they will be missed!"
CowboyWrestling: (OSU Wrestling Team)
"Thoughts and prayers with the OSU Women's Basketball family!"
Whitney Hand: (OU women's basketball player)
"Praying for the entire OSU family. Life is so precious. We love you all and are with you through this."
Danielle Robinson: (Former OU women's basketball player, now plays for San Antonio Stars)
"Praying for the whole OSU family! Life is just too short. We are all with you through this tough time."
Dean Blevins: (News9 Sports Director)
"My deepest sympathies to OSU women's basketball Coach Kurt Budke's family and longtime asst Miranda Serena--Kurt was a tremendous person & coach."
OU Compliance Office:
:Prayers up for Oklahoma State Athletics and their families. Heaven will love the bright orange sportscoat. God's grace be with them all."