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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

Family members of two Oklahoma State University women's basketball coaches killed in a plane crash in November 2011 are suing the estate of the deceased pilot and his wife.

The widow of former head women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and the parents of Miranda Serna, an assistant coach, are seeking an unspecified amount of money from the estate of Olin and Paula Branstetter, who lived in the Ponca City area.

The lawsuits, quietly filed last year in Kay County District Court, accuse the couple of negligence.

Budke, Serna and the Branstetters all died Nov. 17, 2011, when the small plane they were riding in crashed in Arkansas, where the coaches were headed on a recruiting trip.

At the time of the crash, Serna was 36. Budke was 50.

The Branstetters, both graduates and longtime supporters of OSU, often volunteered their time for the university and had taken Budke, Serna and other coaches on similar trips in the past.

According to a probable cause report released in March by the National Transportation Safety Board, Olin Branstetter, 82, was piloting the single-engine Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee when it crashed near Perryville, Ark.

The report states that Olin Branstetter lost control of the plane just before it crashed but offered few other details. It also left open the possibility that he may have experienced a medical event before losing control of the plane but notes that his body was in such poor condition that making such a determination wasn't possible.

Paula Branstetter, who was 79, was reportedly sitting behind her husband at the time of the crash. She was a certified pilot, but the NTSB report shows that she was too far from the cockpit to assist in the case of an emergency.

The couple's plane, which had undergone its annual inspection about a week before the crash, had no apparent mechanical difficulties, the report revealed. It also showed that Olin Branstetter had no drugs in his system at the time of the crash.

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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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