Plane Crash Kills Family Headed to OU-BYU Game

By TIM TALLEY
|  Sunday, Sep 6, 2009  |  Updated 12:15 PM CDT
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Plane Crash Kills Family Headed to OU-BYU Game

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Plane was headed from Oklahoma to Dallas Love Field.

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A small aircraft plummeted into an Oklahoma park and burst into flames on Saturday after hitting a guide wire from a communications tower, killing all five people on board, investigators said.

The six-passenger plane was on its way to Dallas when it crashed amid heavy fog near a baseball field in Tulsa, said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. George Brown.

"The wings came off. The engine came off," Brown said. "When it hit, it rolled. It did catch fire. It rolled at least a couple of times, ejecting the occupants."

Brown said the victims, who all died at the scene, were pilot Dr. Stephen Lester, 48; his wife Dana, 48; daughters Laura, 16, and Christina, 13; and Dr. Ken Veteto, 50. All were from Tulsa. No one on the ground was injured.

Lester's uncle, Mike Lester, said the couple had two other children who weren't on board the plane. He said family and friends were distraught.

"It's really difficult," Lester, his voice shaking, said during a phone interview.

The Piper PA-32 took off for Dallas Love Field from Jones Riverside Airport in Tulsa at 10:37 a.m. It crashed about 30 minutes later into Chandler Park, a recreation area with athletic fields and picnic facilities.

The tower in the park was between 150 feet and 200 feet tall, Brown said.

"Because of weather conditions, there was a low cloud ceiling that obscured the communications tower," he said. "It's apparent that the pilot did not see this tower."

Jeremy Richards said he was at the park for a motorcycle rally when he heard the crash. Richards said it sounded like the crack of a whip.

"I never heard that noise before," Richards told the Tulsa World. "I turned around to look and I see something flying through the air. I realized later that it was a body."

He and a friend, Mike Walker, were only about 100 yards away and ran to the plane, the front of which was engulfed in flames, he said.

"Nobody was able to be saved. Nothing could be done," Richards said. "It's just insane. It's not something that was expected at all. I don't know how to explain it."

FAA records indicate the aircraft was manufactured in 1976 and registered to Stephen Lester of Tulsa.

Lester, an anesthesiologist, was a devoted father who was involved in all aspects of his children's lives, his uncle said.

"They took family vacations several times a year," Mike Lester said.

The doctor was heavily involved in his church and recently returned from a mission trip to Africa. He purchased the aircraft to deliver seminars on pain medication to other doctors across the country, Mike Lester said.

He said the family was traveling to Dallas to watch the University of Oklahoma kick off its football season against BYU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

"They were both avid OU fans," he said.

Veteto specialized in internal medicine at the Warren Clinic in Tulsa, according to the clinic's Web site. A listing for his home phone number couldn't be found Saturday, and his clinic's office was closed for the weekend.

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