University forms task force to study teams' travel

Tuesday, January 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ A task force has been formed to develop new transportation and travel policies for Oklahoma State University sports teams, a move the school says is aimed at supporting families that chose not to settle lawsuits stemming from a fatal plane crash last year.

The Jan. 27, 2001, crash in Colorado killed 10 men associated with the men's basketball program, including two players. They were on board one of three small planes returning from a game.

The task force will be made up of university representatives, experts and victims' family members, and will cover all modes of transportation for athletic teams, the university said in a news release Monday.

The report, expected in the next few months, is intended for distribution at OSU, among Big 12 schools and collegiate programs nationwide.

``Developing guidelines with potential to become the national standard for athletic team travel is but another way OSU and these families can leave a lasting memorial to the 10 men we lost,'' OSU President James Halligan said.

Zane Fleming, whose son Nate was among those killed in the crash, said he welcomed Monday's announcement.

``I'm pleased that they're coming out in support of the families,'' Fleming said. ``They've been very reserved about supporting the families in the past. Oklahoma State has not taken anyone's side, which was probably good.''

The crash also killed pilots Denver Mills and Bjorn Fahlstrom, player Daniel Lawson, broadcaster Bill Teegins, publicist Will Hancock, radio engineer Kendall Durfey, trainer Brian Luinstra, manager Jared Weiberg and director of basketball operations Pat Noyse.

The families of Teegins, Noyse, Luinstra and Durfey reached financial settlements with OSU. The others filed suit against the estate of Mills, the pilot.

Fleming said such a move was mandated by state law, which does not allow lawsuits against insurance companies. He said discovery of why the plane crashed, not money, is the issue.

``Had we all settled, we would never really have found what happened,'' Fleming said.

A final report from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected later this year.

The news release said OSU has pushed for fairness in settlements with families but believes each family has the right to pursue individual options.

``Some families have concluded that the legal system provides the most responsible avenue for finding answers and achieving fair settlements,'' Halligan said.

``We want to support the families in every way possible as some of them take actions in an attempt to find the most definitive answers possible and to find peace through those answers.''

At the request of the families, OSU will observe the anniversary of the crash with commemorative gestures but without a public ceremony.

There will be a moment of silence at halftime of Oklahoma State's basketball game with Colorado on Jan. 26, and a wreath will be placed at the crash-site memorial in Byers, Colo. In addition, Stillwater churches will toll their bells 10 times at 6:37 p.m. Jan. 27, the time of last year's crash.

On Feb. 23, the day of a home game against Baylor, OSU will dedicate inside Gallagher-Iba Arena a memorial to the 10 victims.