NTSB Probing Oklahoma State Plane

Monday, January 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BYERS, Colo. (AP) _ After a snowy day walking through a mile of scattered wreckage, aviation investigators focused on whether a University of Oklahoma chartered plane had been de-iced before takeoff.

``We have some very detailed and painstaking work ahead of us in what are not the best weather conditions,'' John Hammerschmidt, head of the National Transportation Safety Board crash investigation team, said Sunday.

Ten people, including two Oklahoma State basketball players and six staffers, were killed Saturday when the twin-engine plan crashed into a field. The plane had taken off from Jefferson County Airport in light snow and with a visibility of one mile.

The crew were told ice could form on the wings, but investigators said conditions were not harsh enough for authorities to ground the plane.

The Beechcraft King Air 200 Catpass was one of three planes carrying the school's basketball team and associates back to Stillwater, Okla., after they lost to Colorado at Boulder.

No distress call was made before the crash, said Arnold Scott of the NTSB.

Among the victims were Oklahoma State players Nate Fleming and Daniel Lawson, sports information employee Will Hancock, director of basketball operations Pat Noyes and their trainer Brian Luinstra.

The mood in Stillwater, Okla., was cold and dreary as rain soaked the streets of the university's hometown.

``It's like a part of the school died,'' said Justin Battista, a freshman walking to Sunday Mass.

At Eskimo Joes, a normally rowdy off-campus hangout, one student couldn't keep from crying as she seated the few customers on the quiet Sunday morning.

``Everyone is pretty melancholy,'' freshman Chris Shumake said. ``They're just walking around like zombies, sort of. You hear of airplane crashes like in Europe and overseas, but you never think of it hitting home.''

The school has scheduled a memorial service for Wednesday to allow friends and family the chance to offer prayers.

``It's always hard when you didn't get a chance to say goodbye, or didn't get a chance to say sorry for yelling at you a day ago or whatever,'' said student Crystal Kelso, who knew both players.

Two of Fleming's friends stopped at the crash site Sunday on their way to comfort his family in Edmond, Okla.

Sarah Cook, 23, of Jackson, Wyo., said Fleming, a freshman walk-on, was delighted to have some playing time.

``Everybody was chanting for him and we told him he was awesome,'' Cook said.

Witnesses said the plane climbed and banked hard to the right before it crashed. They told investigators the propeller plane's engines revved and eased several times before the fiery crash in a field about 40 miles east of Denver.

``It sounded like he was flying full power. Then I heard a thump and saw a low glow,'' said Jon Carrick, who lives about two miles southwest of the crash site.

Also killed in the crash was student manager Jared Weiberg, the nephew of Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg, broadcast engineer Kendall Durfey, broadcaster Bill Teegins, pilot Denver Mills and co-pilot Bjorn Falistrom.

The victims' bodies were removed and over the next few days the engines, de-icing boots and other pieces of the wreckage were to be taken to a hangar in Greeley, where investigators were to create a mock-up of the plane.

The plane was registered to North Bay Charter of Reno, Nev. The company declined to comment Sunday.