Illinois State University basketball coach killed in plane crash after NCAA title game | Bob's Blitz

Illinois State University basketball coach killed in plane crash after NCAA title game

Illinois State University's associate head basketball coach Torrey Ward and Aaron Leetch, the athletic department's deputy director for external relations, were killed when their plane crashed returning from the NCAA basketball tournament in Indianapolis last week. The plane crashed in a central Illinois field on Tuesday, killing all seven people on board.

"Words cannot fully express the grief that is felt in the wake of such a tragedy," Illinois State University President Larry Dietz wrote to the campus, adding that both men were well-respected and much-loved in the athletics department. "We move between shock and profound sadness."

Ward sent this chilling final tweet Monday from Indianapolis:

The Cessna 414 twin-engine aircraft took off from Indianapolis and crashed just short of the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington after midnight, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The Chicago Tribune quoted Scott Barrows as saying his daughter's husband, Scott Bittner, 42, was also among several other men on board.

"(They) went to the NCAA game last night and they were flying back and I guess the weather was bad in central Illinois. It was foggy," Barrows told the Tribune. "They were supposed to land around midnight. My daughter was called at 4 a.m. ... It has been confirmed they are dead."

Jason Jones, a former basketball and baseball player for Illinois Wesleyan University who worked at Wells Fargo Advisors, also died, said his wife, Lyndsey Jones.

"He loved his children and his family more than anything in the world, wonderful man. That's really all I can say right now," she said.

Bittner had traveled to Indianapolis for the NCAA tournament using his dad's plane, which he primarily used for business trips, said Terry Wertz, who has worked at Bittner's Meat Co. for 15 years. "He always told me that he wasn't my boss, that I didn't work for him, I worked with him," added Wertz.

CBS Chicago reports that the plane crashed during what local meteorologists described as zero visibility conditions, due to heavy fog. Radar contact was lost moments before the crash and a search was launched when the pilot failed to close out his flight plan. It took about three hours to find the wreckage.

The airport was open and all systems, including its runway lighting, were functioning, though the tower had closed several hours earlier and handed responsibility to an air traffic control facility in Peoria.

"That is not an anomaly; that's a very common thing at airports across the country," airport Director Carl Olson told reporters at the news conference.

The aircraft was registered to Make it Happen Aviation LLC of Towanda, Illinois. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

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