DAVIS, Okla. -- As the OSU community mourns the loss of two talented coaches, an Oklahoma family is mourning the loss of a mother and father. Former state senator Olin Branstetter was piloting that ill-fated flight Thursday evening; his wife, Paula, right by his side.
Paul Branstetter calls his parents world class pilots.
He hopes the tragedy doesn't overshadow the Branstetter's life of service to the community and absolute love of Oklahoma State University.
"As great of pilots as my parents were, it's hard they'll be remembered for crashing an airplane," Paul Branstetter said.
Olin spent four years serving in the state senate back in the 1980s.
His picture still hangs on the wall of the Capitol.
Olin and Paula became college sweethearts after meeting on the OSU campus.
"They were ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things," Paul said.
Paul adds the pair set an aviation world record.
"They flew to the magnetic North Pole with my brother and set a world record that's never been equaled," Paul said.
Paul finds it hard to believe pilot error could've caused the fatal crash.
"I don't know what could've happened, but I know it was an excellent airplane and excellent pilots," Paul said.
Clearly the loss of his parents, coupled with two talented coaches, has hit the Branstetter family twice as hard.
"The tragedy is, it not only took their life but also the coaches of OSU we so love," Paul said.
Paul said this wasn't the first time his parents had flown OSU coaches to visit recruits.
For several years OSU has also awarded scholarships in the Branstetter name.
Paul hopes to see that continue.
NTSB Identification: CEN12FA072
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, November 17, 2011 in Perryville, AR
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-180, registration: N7746W
Injuries: 4 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.
On November 17, 2011, about 1610 central standard time, a Piper PA-28-180, N7746W, impacted the ground near Perryville, Arkansas. The certificated flight instructor pilot and three passengers were fatally injured; the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was owned by a private individual and operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan. The flight originated from Stillwater Regional Airport (SWO), Stillwater, Oklahoma, about 1415 and was destined for North Little Rock Municipal Airport (ORK), North Little Rock, Arkansas.
Employees at SWO reported that the airplane landed approximately 1345, picked up two passengers, and departed for ORK. The airplane did not receive any services at SWO.
Radar data showed the airplane level at 7,000 feet mean sea level on a southeasterly heading. At 1610:49, the airplane entered a right turn and began descending. The airplane disappeared from radar shortly after. There were no reported air traffic control communications with the airplane.
Witnesses who were in the vicinity of the accident site reported that the airplane was flying at a low altitude and making turns. They then observed the airplane enter a steep nose-low attitude prior to descending toward the terrain.
The accident site was located in a heavily wooded area of the Ouachita National Forest, about 8 miles southeast of Perryville. The initial ground impact scar was consistent with the airplane’s right wing leading edge contacting the ground first. An impact crater, about 10 feet in diameter and about 3.5 feet deep contained most of the airplane. Ground scars and witness marks to trees surrounding the accident site were consistent with the airplane being in a steep nose-low attitude at the time of impact.
The airplane wreckage was transported to a secure location for further examination.