STILLWATER, Oklahoma – This past week marked the 20th anniversary of the Jan. 27, 2001, plane crash that killed 10 people associated with the Oklahoma State University basketball team.
Following a game in Boulder, Colorado, 10 people boarded a small plane that night. It crashed in eastern Colorado, leaving no survivors.
The 10 killed were Kendall C. Durfey, television and radio engineer; Bjorn G. Fahlstrom, corporate aviation pilot; Nathan Z. Fleming, scholar and athlete; William R. Hancock III, media relations coordinator; Daniel P. Lawson, Jr., scholar and athlete; Brian W. Luinstra, athletic trainer; Denver Mills, CPA and pilot; Pat Noyes, director of basketball operations, William B. Tietgens (Teegins), sportscaster and Jared G. Weiberg, student assistant.
Since that time, OSU has made good on a promise to always remember that tragic event, and every year it honors the lives lost with memorials, an anniversary game and a fundraising 5K run.
“I don’t think there is any doubt it shortened my career,” former OSU President Jim Halligan told the Stillwater News Press in 2014. “It is a rare day when it doesn’t enter my mind.”
A memorial lobby was built into Gallagher-Iba Arena, which was open all week for visitors. The bells at Edmon Low Library tolled 10 times at 6:37 p.m. Saturday's memorial was also to be the first since the passing of Hall of Fame coach Eddie Sutton, who was the Cowboys' coach at the time of the crash.
“As a freshman at (South Carolina) 20 years ago today, I heard about the crash and thought it was terrible,” current Cowboys coach Mike Boynton wrote. “In 2016, I met many of the families impacted. I have since been able to spend time with them, talk and laugh with them. The connection is stronger than I ever imagined. God is amazing. I’m thankful to the families for their love of this program and University. There are no greater examples of #LoyalandTrue. This weekend in GIA will give us all a moment to reflect and acknowledge them."
Saturday, Jan. 30, OSU was to host Arkansas for the annual Remember the 10 game. During halftime, the Remember the Ten Run was set to donate proceeds from the event to the OSU Counseling Services and scholarship recipients were to be recognized.
The impact of the tragedy goes far beyond the basketball program, though.
Legendary wrestling coach John Smith, was in his 10th year as head coach of his alma mater when the plane crash occurred. While in his weekly Zoom call with the media last week, he recalled the moment.
"It's a tragic day for all of us," Smith said. "It was very emotional, tough deal. ... What I remember is how strong coach (Eddie) Sutton was pulling a lot of people through that. He really led the athletic department through that in what he did and what he said. I just remember kind of following his lead."
Smith and his team were also on the road that same fateful weekend 20 years ago. The wrestling program had just wrestled at the University of Northern Iowa, and he said the UNI sports information director was the one who broke the news to him.
"We were scheduled to fly back on a private plane," Smith said. "And we ended up driving back. ... I think choosing to just rent a couple of vans and driving home is something that maybe felt like we needed to do."