Oklahoma State University women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed Thursday afternoon when the single-engine plane they were riding in during a recruiting trip crashed in the Quachita mountains.
The university said Budke and Serna died in the crash Thursday night near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock in the Winona Wildlife Management Area. The pilot, former Okla. State Sen. Olin Branstetter, and his wife, Paula, were also killed in the crash, according to OSU spokesman Gary Shutt.
"This is obviously an incredibly devastating event. It's our worst nightmare. The entire OSU family is very close, very close indeed," said Burns Hargis, OSU president.
Samantha Morrow, the head coach of the University of Texas at Arlington's Lady Mavs and a friend of Budke, said the crash was "gutwrenching."
"It's just a sad day for women's basketball and for Oklahoma State, the whole program," she said.
This is the second crash in the university's history. 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. I think this is the longest I've gone without tearing up," Hargis said. "We don't know a lot about what happened and how it happened, but we know they're gone. At least from our presence. But I know they're here in our hearts."
There were no survivors in the crash.
Shutt said that hunters spotted the plane going down at about 4 p.m. Rescuers from the Forest Service were at the crash site by 6 p.m. and the coroner arrived at about 7 p.m.
FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the plane was a single-engine Piper PA-28. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending investigators, and that it could take nine months to determine the cause of the crash.
The university was notified about the crash at about 1:30 a.m.
Plans for memorial service for Budke and Serna are under way, Shutt said, and will likely take place on Monday.
"This is a sad day for the OSU Cowboy Nation. I'm stunned and saddened that another tragedy has hit our basketball program," OSU alum and major financial contributor T. Boone Pickens said in a statement Friday. "I grew to know and respect Coach Budke during his seven-year coaching history at OSU. His star burned bright and his loss will sadden yet strengthen the University for generations to come."
OSU vice president for athletics Mike Holder said in a news release Friday says the school is "shocked by this terrible loss." He said associate head coach Jim Littell would assume duties as interim coach, and the Cowgirls would not play home games scheduled Saturday against Grambling State and Sunday against UTA.
Additionally, the school's wrestling team has canceled matches for Friday and Sunday.
OSU counselors were offering assistance to the team and staff on Friday.
NBC 5's Randy McIlwain contributed to this report.