Oftentimes, in today’s modern world of college basketball, we tend to assume that teams will travel quickly around the country to play games for the sake of our enjoyment. This luxury, however, sometimes comes with a cost.
Last Saturday, ten members of the Oklahoma State University basketball family, including two players, lost their lives in a fatal airplane crash. While a continuing investigation looks into the cause of the crash, no reason they uncover will take away from the pain of the families of those lost or of all college sports fans across the country.
We must also sympathize with legendary OSU coach Eddie Sutton who is as close to his players as any coach in college basketball today. While we know his pain is as great as any, he revealed in an Associated Press interview that his religious beliefs will help him and others cope with the tragic loss.
“I don’t ever want to go through that again,” Sutton said Monday. “But I know God will help me through this. We’ll all have to get through it. Maybe we’ll never be able to get over it completely, but life goes on, and if you are a strong believer in God, you know all ten of those people are with our maker.”
The two players were red-shirt freshman Nate Fleming and junior guard Daniel Lawson, both only 21 years of age. A third student, team manager Jared Weiberg, also lost his life at the tender age of 22. Memorial services for each will be held tomorrow in Oklahoma City.
Pilot Denver Mills and co-pilot Bjorn Fahlstrom were also lost in the crash. Mills was a 55-year-old experienced pilot who had piloted OSU sports teams for many years. Fahlstrom, however, was a 30-year-old ex-pro tennis player only in his second year flying planes.
In that same interview, Sutton refused to place any blame on the pilots stating simply that such tragic events happen sometimes for no reason.
“There’s not a plane that we’ve ever asked to take our student-athletes and our coaches on that wasn’t just in tip-top shape,” Sutton said. “The plane went down; I have flown on it so many times.”
Two people from the OSU radio network were also killed in the crash, including 48-year-old Bill Teegins, the play-by-play voice of Cowboy football and basketball. We simply cannot imagine the feeling that Oklahoma State fans will have the next time they tune their radios in only to hear a new voice. The producer and engineer of the OSU radio network, 38-year-old Kendall Durfey also perished that fateful, cold Saturday.
Pat Noyes, 27, and Brian Luinstra, 29, lost their lives in the plane crash as well. The former was the director of basketball operations for the Cowboys, while the latter was the team trainer. The final victim was Will Hancock, 31, the OSU coordinator of media relations.
Collectively, four wives, two daughters, three sons, three brothers, four sisters, and countless friends will lie down to sleep this evening with the pain of such a drastic and tragic loss still fresh on their minds. I can only say, having never experienced losing someone so close to me, that I pray that the victims’ families’ wounds heal with time.
Though our basketball squad may not be the best or most dominant that we’ve seen, I hope now we can all realize that taking things for granted, such as successful airplane or bus travel, is a luxury that we here at Western Carolina have not yet had to relinquish.
So, the next time you see your favorite team getting beaten, and you think the situation could not be any worse, know that it can. Use that knowledge to appreciate life in all its splendor. I will leave you this week with a quote from a little-known author by the name of Maurice Maeterlinck who urges us to grasp life and appreciate those whom we love.
“When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough.”