OKLAHOMA STATE Plane crash victims honored
Friends, family remember Oklahoma State basketball players who died.
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -- Nate Fleming and Daniel Lawson were full of competitive fire. Kendall Durfey loved the outdoors. Bill Teegins always joked about his strenuous nightly exercise: one sit-up.
Their friends and family members shared their memories Thursday, when the Oklahoma State basketball family paused to remember the fourth anniversary of a plane crash that killed 10 men returning from a Cowboys basketball game at Colorado.
Director of basketball operations Kyle Keller recalled how student manager Jared Weiberg once got future NBA player Desmond Mason so worked up with his intense defense during a NCAA tournament practice that coach Eddie Sutton sent Mason to the team bus for an hour and a half to calm down.
"That was his toughness, his enthusiasm and his passion for basketball," Keller said.
At the same practice, Keller said Fleming relentlessly dogged guard Doug Gottlieb.
"That's the spirit and the passion that all 10 of these men had," Keller said. "That's kind of how we remember all of these people."
Three planes were taking the team home, when one crashed in a field near Strasburg, Colo. Pilots Denver Mills and Bjorn Fahlstrom were killed in the crash, along with Fleming, Lawson, Weiberg, director of basketball operations Pat Noyes, publicist Will Hancock, trainer Brian Luinstra, Teegins -- the team's radio announcer -- and Durfey, the radio engineer.
Athletics director Harry Birdwell, who along with university president David Schmidly laid a wreath at the crash memorial in Gallagher-Iba Arena, said the anniversary should be focused on remembering what made each of the men special.
"I think it gave us reason to celebrate life," Birdwell said. "I think it gave us greater appreciation of what's important. I think it gave us a reason to remember.
"The loss still hurts after four years. The grief never goes away."
Sutton stops every day at the memorial, which features pictures of the 10 men around a statue of a kneeling cowboy. Several wreaths and bouquets with orange flowers were placed at the memorial for the anniversary, and 10 orange roses lay at the feet of the statue.
"Nothing that's ever happened to me touched my life like that horrible accident," Sutton said. "Not a day goes by that I don't stop and look those guys in the eye and thank them in a certain way. They helped us become better people."
Since the crash, Sutton said he calls his three sons and six grandchildren every day to let them know he loves them.
"You never know about life," Sutton said. "You're here today, but you might be gone tomorrow."
Ellen Durfey, Kendall's mother, said it has become easier to cope with the loss as the years have passed. She said it's most difficult when she sees video of the crash site on television.
"This year has been easier than the other years," she said. "I think it's just time. You still think of them all the time. You feel horrible, but I think you've kind of moved on."
"You focus on the good memories now and put the tragedy further behind," Durfey's sister, Karlene Durfey, said.
Birdwell said he's noticed changes when he sees family members.
"More of us are now saying, 'Hey, did I ever tell you when Will said this? Or did I ever tell you what Teegins did? Or do you remember when Dan Lawson did this?' " Birdwell said.
"And so, in some sense, the memories and the reasons we love these guys are now beginning to have a greater impact on our emotions."
Birdwell said the impact of the 10 men can be passed on through the actions of those who knew them.
"If in fact we use our love and our memories of these guys appropriately," he said, "then they will always impact us and they will always impact who we are and how we impact others."