Originally published November 18, 2011 at 08:44a.m., updated November 19, 2011 at 12:49a.m.

Oklahoma State women’s coach Kurt Budke, assistant die in plane crash

Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke, right, is shown in this 2008 file photo with guard Andrea Riley. Budke was killed in a plane crash on Friday in Arkansas.

Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke, right, is shown in this 2008 file photo with guard Andrea Riley. Budke was killed in a plane crash on Friday in Arkansas.


— The Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coach and his assistant were killed when the single-engine plane transporting them on a recruiting trip crashed in steep terrain in Arkansas, the university said Friday.

Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna died in the accident Thursday afternoon in the Winona Wildlife Management Area near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock.

The pilot, 82-year-old former Oklahoma state Sen. Olin Branstetter, and his 79-year-old wife, Paula, also died when the plane sputtered, spiraled out of control and nosedived into the forest.

There were no survivors.

“This is our worst nightmare. The entire OSU family is very close, very close indeed,” OSU President Burns Hargis said at a news conference. “To lose anyone, especially these two individuals who are incredible life forces in our family, it is worse beyond words.”

The crash is the second major tragedy for the sports program in about a decade. In January 2001, 10 men affiliated with the university’s men’s basketball team died in a Colorado plane crash.

“When something like this happens and, God forbid it happened again, we have to pull together as a family. We’ve got to try to do that,” Hargis said, as he broke down in tears.

After the 2001 crash, the university required that planes used by the school’s sports team undergo safety checks before travel. Hargis said coaches were not bound by the same rules and that the school left such decisions to their discretion.

Hargis called Budke “an exemplary leader and man of character,” and credited him with elevating the team in a tough program. Serna, he said, was “an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model” for the players. Former Assistant Coach Jim Littell will serve as interim head coach.

Perry County Sheriff Scott Montgomery said hunters called emergency officials about 4 p.m. Thursday after they heard the plane apparently in trouble, then saw it nosedive into a heavily wooded area.

“The plane was spitting and sputtering and then it spiraled and went nose first into the ground,” Montgomery said.

“It went straight into the side of the hill,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending investigators, and that it could take nine months to determine the cause of the crash. FAA records showed that the plane was built in 1964 and registered to Branstetter.

On Jan. 27, 2001, a Beechcraft King Air 200 carrying players and others connected to the OSU men’s basketball team crashed in a field 40 miles east of Denver as the Cowboys returned from a game at Colorado. The crash occurred about 35 minutes after the plane took off in light snow.

An NTSB report cited a power loss aboard the plane and said the pilot suffered disorientation while flying the plane manually with still-available instruments.

Eddie Sutton, the OSU men’s basketball coach at the time of the 2001 crash, said Thursday’s crash brought back the emotions he felt a decade ago.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about one of those guys,” Sutton said. “It’s emotional, believe me. This brings back a lot of unpleasantness.”

The weather near the crash site Thursday was clear with temperatures in the upper 30s to mid-40s.

The university hired Salina, Kan., native Budke from Louisiana Tech seven years ago and the coach compiled a 112-83 record at the school. This year’s team was 1-0 after defeating Rice on Sunday.

Budke coached Serna and Trinity Valley to a junior college national title in 1996. Serna went on to play for Houston before returning to the community college to become an assistant coach under Budke. He also had Serna on his staff at Louisiana Tech and Oklahoma State. She was the recruiting coordinator for the Cowgirls.

On Friday, Oklahoma State said it was canceling its women’s college basketball home games set for Saturday and Sunday. The school’s second-ranked college football team plays Friday night at Iowa State.

The head coach of Baylor, Kim Mulkey, said the deaths would have a wide impact.

“There’s a bigger picture out there and it’s not a basketball game, it puts life in perspective.” Mulkey said. “I feel for the Oklahoma State community. How many more tragedies can they endure?”

After the news conference, tearful Oklahoma State staff members and supporters comforted each other in the hallway of Heritage Hall. A banner was laid out for students and faculty to sign with messages for Budke, 50, and Serna, 36.

Former Cowgirl Taylor Hardeman left a message: “I will never forget how much better you made me as a person, player and alum. Thanks for the memories. God bless you both. You will be missed.”

Outside the gym, a bouquet of orange daisies and two large orange flowers were left near the statue of a kneeling Cowboy, part of the memorial to those lost in the 2001 crash. OSU Director of Communications Gary Shutt said a memorial was being planned for Monday.

“I don’t know a lot about what happened or about how it happened, but I know they are gone,” Hargis said. “But I know they’re here in our hearts.”

Kansas Athletics has released the following statements from Kansas Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson and men’s basketball coach Bill Self concerning the recent passing of Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna.

Kansas Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger:

“Words cannot adequately express the sorrow we feel for the friends and families of Coaches Budke and Serna. Our hearts go out to the entire Oklahoma State family.”

Women’s Basketball Coach Bonnie Henrickson:

“I am shocked and saddened by the deaths of Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna. Most of my conversations with Kurt were about his family. He was a very proud husband and father. Miranda was a tireless recruiter full of energy and passion about her job. My heart goes out to both Kurt and Miranda’s families and the entire Oklahoma State family. Kurt and Miranda were both first class.”

Men’s Basketball Coach Bill Self:

“Our hearts go out to the Budke, Serna and entire OSU family. No school has suffered and endured more than Oklahoma State University in recent memory. Kurt was a terrific guy and coach. We wish the best to the immediate and extended families as they comfort each other during this tragic time.”


kupride4u 10 years, 6 months ago

Awful, prayers to the OSU family! Nobody should have to deal with this, and now the university is going through it twice.

Damian Glaze 10 years, 6 months ago

I feel terrible for the family of the coaches and the Oklahoma State community and alumni. To have something like this happen twice in 10 years is unbelievable. The Big 12 family is with you in spirit.

chaggs 10 years, 6 months ago

Wow. That is sad. I am certain the OK State family is getting prayers from the vast majority of Jayhawk Nation!

Damian Glaze 10 years, 6 months ago

I just read that Budke is a Kansas native from Salina and attended Washburn and Wichita State; and also played ball at Barton County. There are a lot of heavy hearts throughout the midwest with his passing. Thoughts and prayers.

sevenyearhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Not again ... WHAT THE HELL?!?!?

"Budke, a 1984 graduate of Washburn University, earned a masters degree at Wichita State in 1985. As a player, he earned all-conference honors at Barton County Junior College in 1981.

The Salina, Kan., native came to Oklahoma State from Louisiana Tech after coaching stops that included Allen County Community College and Friends University in Kansas, and Trinity Valley Community College in Texas."

knighthawk 10 years, 6 months ago

K. Budke was also a graduate of Sacred Heart High School in Salina, Ks. where he excelled in basketball. My wife's brother was a very close friend and has always remained in contact with him. He comes from a close and very well respected family. At 60 years old I have seen too much of these tragedies. Recently lost a co-worker in an accident that was 47 days from retirement. The best statement that I heard was this, "we'll never get over it, but we will find a way to get through it."

MDHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Awful news...thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those involved, as well as the entire OK State family.

justinryman 10 years, 6 months ago

Saw this on earlier and I can't even express my deep sympathy for the women's basketball program and the University of Oklahoma State.

It has just been over 10 years since they lost members of their mens program coming home from Colorado in plane crash.

May God be with them.

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

741hawk 10 years, 6 months ago

You WERE starting to win me over. Ditto. So inappropriate.

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

John Myers 10 years, 6 months ago

You are, without question, the most classless individual I think I've ever encountered. LJW, please consider banning this poster by IP for good. The mindless drivel has turned to offensive inappropriateness.

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 6 months ago

Now if only ljw cared what austin5string and shelleysue thought

Jayhawk1116 10 years, 6 months ago

Can someone please remove this comment from this horse's ass?

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

theend 10 years, 6 months ago

What did this idiot say?? It was removed before I saw it. What a sad about this accident.

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 6 months ago

Not falling for that one! I can tell you it wasn't about GP flying or wishing another coach was in the plane.

Ryan Shelton 10 years, 6 months ago

I have students who are personally affected, and even if this weren't the case, it's not acceptable to speak sarcastically about the dead. Your attempt at a cheap laugh was just that: cheap.

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 6 months ago

Maybe your time is better spent with those children instead of reading and commenting on a message board?

Ryan Shelton 10 years, 6 months ago

That's what I spent 2nd, 3rd and 4th periods doing, once the news was broken. My lesson plan has been scrapped and my purpose the rest of the day is clear. Comforting my students is part of my job and your assumption that I'm not doing that is ignorant and way out of line.

I'm at a loss for words concerning your ignorance. It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong, and not give any excuses for his behavior. Your attempts to justify your insensitivity show just how immature you are. You can try to deflect. You can try to turn this around on me, but you are the person who doesn't know right from wrong. You are a person without a filter or a conscience.

Ryan Shelton 10 years, 6 months ago

This is a sad day in Red Dirt Country. The high school I work at (30 min. from Stillwater) is in shock right now. Hard to know how lightning could strike the same place twice. Prayers are with the victims and their families.

John Myers 10 years, 6 months ago

Horrible news. Thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.

kuaero87 10 years, 6 months ago

Played Babe Ruth baseball for Kurt's dad back in Salina in the early 80's. Pretty sure Kurt helped with the team - they were all active with the league. Great family - he will be missed for sure.

Beth Ennis 10 years, 6 months ago

How very sad. Like all of you, I can't believe this could happen twice to the same school. Prayers for everyone at OKState and family and friends.

shelleysue 10 years, 6 months ago

Thoughts and prayers to to the entire Oklahoma State family. I am SO sorry. God bless.

Jim Pendleton 10 years, 6 months ago

Such a sad deal, I can't even imagine anyone having to go thru that once, let alone a second time. My prayers are with all of the OSU family. All of Jayhawk Nation is with you in this difficult time.

Brian Friess 10 years, 6 months ago

Deepest sympathies to the two families....and to the entire Cowboy nation.

Ron Franklin 10 years, 6 months ago

No doubt, our very birth and existence is an unmistakable and undeniable miracle. Regardless of religious belief, this is a certainty. But death; death is different. There is so much perception into the sadness of passing. Though we usually ask ‘why’ in all cases, we are more forgiving in some than others. Many of us will live a long and fruitful life. Unfortunately, some of us will not. And though it is still very hard, we are more accepting of one's end when a life has been fulfilled, than when one is cut short. The sadness is so much more profound in the latter.

Often, I hear of a passing; Young, old, middle-aged alike. And when I do, I always take time to reflect on how special my life is. What a miracle it is that we are gifted this opportunity to exist.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, OSU and family.

10 years, 6 months ago

Well put, BlownJay.

My thoughts and prayers are with their family, friends, loved ones, and the OSU folks as well.

RockCaCO3 10 years, 6 months ago

My thoughts are with the families, and Cowboy fans. Sad news.

NorthStarHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

My prayers and thoughts to all families involved. And to the OSU Nation, its unfathomable to think you have to deal with another tragedy like this a mere 10 years after "the Ten" tragedy. I am sure God will bless you all with the grace, dignity, and respect you all so eloquently showed to the nation as before.....

Rock Chalk and God Bless Oklahoma State!

blindrabbit 10 years, 6 months ago

Sorry to hear! Remember the Oklahoma State crash in 2001; OSU had just finished playing CU a game in Boulder that night. The crash occurred near Byers, Colorado and was late on a cold, snowy night. Also, at KU (1970) when both Marshall State and Wichita State had crashes; Marshall lost their entire football team; Wichita State about 12 if I remember correctly. With all the recruiting trips taken to remote locations, in small planes in all kinds of weather, somehow I'm surprised these kind of accidents don't happen more often.

tis4tim 10 years, 6 months ago

Horrifyingly sad. May God bestow comfort to the families of Coach Budke, Assistant Coach Serna, the others who lost their lives, and to the entire Cowboy Nation. Godspeed.

Kenny Terry 10 years, 6 months ago

Deep sympthays to the familes and loved ones and to Oklahoma State nation.

ampthatman 10 years, 6 months ago

I hope people thing about this when they feel like making personal attacks on our coaches. These people are flesh and blood and real.

Jackalope7 10 years, 6 months ago

Thoughts and Prayers go out to OSU. Very sorry for your loss.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 6 months ago

Before I put in my 2 cents worth, I am an Oklahoma Sooner fan. You all know about the rivalry that exists between OU and OSU, they call it "Bedlam".

But this horrible tragedy trancends all athletic competition. There have been contributions by all the OU athletic and administrative leaders at Norman on their university web site. Coach Coale (women's coach), Coach Krruger (men's coach), Coach Stoops (football coach) President Boren, Joe Castiglone (AD) have all offered sincere regrets to our cross -state rival in Stillwater.

But I think the Cowgirls need to go on. Coach Budke would not want them to miss a step in their dedication to their school in light of this awful happening. Their continued effort and excellence for OSU would be a great memorial for their coach and I hope that they will continue to perform as their coach would have wanted.

Ron Holzwarth 10 years, 6 months ago

One plane crash that really bothered me personally was when an airplane carrying the Wichita State University football team crashed near Silver Plume, Colorado, on October 2, 1970. I was from Kansas, but living in Colorado at the time. And, I didn't really live all that far from where the accident occurred.

There were 29 killed at the scene, and two later died of their injuries while under medical care. The coverage of the crash was endless in the Colorado newspapers.

At the time I wondered if later in life, would I have ever known any of those people if that accident had not occurred? But I knew that I would never know the answer.

Today, there is a memorial on the Wichita State University campus in memory of them. For years, I have wanted to travel to Wichita to see it.

There was another tragic accident right here in Kansas that few seem to remember today. Knute Rockne, who was the football coach of the University of Notre Dame, and seven others were killed in a plane crash near Bazaar, Kansas, on March 31, 1931.He was in route to participate in the production of the film 'The Spirit of Notre Dame'.

We will never know how much we have lost by tragic losses such as this.

The most we can do is remember the victims, their families, and their friends, and hope to do a bit with our lives what they could have done with theirs if they had not been cut short in such a tragic fashion.

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