A preliminary report released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board stated that no emergency communication occurred just before a plane crashed near Perryville on Nov. 17, killing all four occupants.
The single-engine aircraft was carrying Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna, pilot Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula Branstetter.
The NTSB report stated that witnesses in the vicinity of the accident site reported that the airplane was flying at a low altitude and making turns.
"They then observed the airplane enter a steep nose-low altitude prior to descending toward the terrain."
The report goes on to state that the initial ground impact scar was consistent with the airplane’s right wing leading edge contacting the ground first.
An impact crater, about 10 feet in diameter and about 3 and a half feet deep contained most of the airplane, the report stated.
According to the preliminary report, the plane left a Stillwater, Okla. airport with plans to land at North Little Rock Municipal Airport.
The report indicates that the plane did not receive services before take-off.
Spokesperson for the NTSB Peter Knudson said Monday that it is not yet known if the crash was a result of engine failure or pilot error.
"The preliminary report establishes the facts and circumstances in the early investigations. A lot of work has to be done before we get to the analysis stage," he said.
Investigators will look at aircraft maintenance records, pilot medical information, circumstances of the pilot’s well-being up to 72 hours before the event, flight history and other indicators before a cause is determined.
"There are a lot of things to look at, which is why it takes on average 12 months on a fatal accident," said Knudson.
Pilot Olin Branstetter, age 82, was a former Oklahoma senator. His wife, Paula, was 79.
Olin Branstetter was the owner of the aircraft, a Piper PA-28-180, built in 1964.
National Weather Service of Little Rock data showed fair conditions at the time of the crash.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)