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Archive for Monday, January 29, 2001

Stillwater reeling after plane crash

Oklahoma State students shaken by loss of two basketball players, eight others

January 29, 2001

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— This was supposed to be a day of Super Bowl revelry in this college town, with the only worry being whether stores would run out of popcorn, beer and peanuts.

Instead, the mood Sunday was as cold and dreary as the rain soaking the streets following the crash of a small airplane bringing people home from Oklahoma State's basketball game against Colorado.

"It's like a part of the school died," said Justin Battista, a freshman walking in the rain toward Sunday morning Mass.

Ten people were killed in Saturday's crash in a field 40 miles east of Denver, including two reserve basketball players and six staffers and broadcasters. The pilot and co-pilot also were killed.

There was no distress call from the crew before the crash, said Arnold Scott of the National Transportation Safety Board.

At Eskimo Joes, a normally rowdy off-campus hangout, one student couldn't keep from crying as she seated the few customers who came in on the quiet morning.

"Everyone is pretty melancholy," freshman Chris Shumake said at a bagel shop near campus. "They're just walking around like zombies, sort of."

The hostess at Eskimo Joes, student Crystal Kelso, knew the two players who died, Dan Lawson Jr. and Nate Fleming.

"Nate, he was that walk-on that everybody wants to see get in the game," she said. "I just remember chanting his name a couple weeks ago so they would put him in the game."

Kelso said Fleming planned to help her start a community outreach program with other student athletes. She said Lawson was a good friend, even though they didn't always get along.

"It's always hard when you didn't get a chance to say goodbye, or didn't get a chance to say sorry for yelling at you a day ago or whatever," she said.

Katie McCollon, a high school senior who also attends Oklahoma State, said she and her parents knew many of those killed.

"I grew up in Stillwater," she said. "OSU is like three blocks from my house. It's really close to home. OSU basketball is one of the highlights of the year for my family."

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