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OSU plane crash: Families of Budke, Serna are suing the estate of pilot, wife

The widow of former Oklahoma State University women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and the parents of Miranda Serna, an assistant coach, are suing the family estate of the 82-year-old pilot who was flying the plane the coach and three others died in nearly two years ago.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: July 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: July 16, 2013

/articleid/3862964/1/pictures/2160210">Photo - FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2011 file photo, Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke makes a point during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M,  in College Station, Texas. Oklahoma State University says  Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash in central Arkansas. The university said in a news release Friday, Nov. 18, 2011 that the two were on a recruiting trip to Arkansas when the plane crashed near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File) ORG XMIT: NY153
FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2011 file photo, Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke makes a point during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M, in College Station, Texas. Oklahoma State University says Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash in central Arkansas. The university said in a news release Friday, Nov. 18, 2011 that the two were on a recruiting trip to Arkansas when the plane crashed near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File) ORG XMIT: NY153

Paul Branstetter, one of the couple's three living sons, said he had no comment about the lawsuit.

Not employees

The lawsuit filed against the Branstetters' estate is pending.

In March, a district judge ruled the couple were not considered employees of OSU and are not protected by Oklahoma's Governmental Tort Claims Act.

Lawyers representing the Branstetters have claimed the couple were “employed” by the university because they frequently volunteered their time and energy to help university employees conduct school business.

“The Branstetters were carrying out the business of Oklahoma State University as unpaid volunteers by transporting Mr. Serna and Mr. Budke,” one of the Branstetter family attorneys wrote in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

“It is for these reasons ... the Branstetters are considered persons that fall within the statutory definition of ‘employee' of the (Governmental Tort Claims Act), and (are) entitled to dismissal.”

What's at stake?

While the lawsuits filed against the Branstetters' estate do not specify how much Shelly Budke and Serna's parents are seeking, the Branstetters appeared to be wealthier than most Oklahomans.

Records available to the public do not say how much money Olin and Paula Branstetter had when they died, but do reveal that Olin Branstetter owned numerous oil and gas properties, real estate and that he had funded the education of his grandchildren using “cash and securities” before his death.

Olin Branstetters' last will and testament also discloses that he had established a trust fund to benefit his wife and three sons following his death and that he owned stock in Sonic Corp. and Bank of America in the years leading up to his death.

The lengthy document lists numerous charities, relatives, friends and others as beneficiaries.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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