WASHINGTON _ The 82-year-old pilot of a plane carrying four people, including two Oklahoma State University basketball coaches, lost control of the aircraft just before it crashed in Arkansas in 2011, killing all aboard, according to a report released Thursday.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigated the crash of the single engine plane near Perryville, Arkansas, could not determine why Olin Branstetter lost control of the plane. No mechanical difficulties were found; the plane had undergone its annual inspection just a week before.
No drugs were found in Branstetter's system; an autopsy noted that the condition of the remains did not allow for identification of any medical conditions which may have contributed to the crash, according to the NTSB.
The Nov. 17, 2011 crash killed Branstetter; his wife, Paula, 79; OSU women's basketball coach Kurt Budke, 50; and his assistant, Miranda Serna, 36.
The plane was bound for Little Rock on a recruiting trip. It was a clear day, with only light winds, and the temperature was in the low 50s.
Paula Branstetter was certified to fly the plane, but was not in the front seat as a co-pilot during the flight.
According to statements from employees at the Stillwater Regional Terminal, where the flight originated, Branstetter wanted Budke to sit in the front seat with him. Budke initially refused, but agreed to sit up front during the flight.
The single-engine Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee aircraft, manufactured in 1964, crashed at 4:10 p.m, about two hours after leaving Stillwater, about 45 miles northwest of Little Rock in the Ouachita National Forest's Winona Wildlife Management Area.
Witnesses said the plane's engine revved repeatedly just before the crash and that the pilot appeared to be making a turn before it went into a slow downward spiral.
One witness reported hearing “what sounded like an airplane engine overspeeding 5-7 (seconds), then power came off for about 2 (seconds), then power back on overspeeding for about 5-7 (seconds) then no sound at all.”
The NTSB investigation showed that the control cables had been fractured in multiple places and that the fractures were “consistent with overload,'' suggesting that they may have broken from the stress put on them as someone was struggling to control the plane.
The seat belts for Olin Branstetter and Budke were still latched after the crash, though the belts in the rear were unlatched.Ongoing coverage NTSB: Brief of accident Read the NTSB report
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