Haunting memories: Players from the 2000-01 OSU team share their memories of a tragedy
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Sunday, January 23, 2011
1/24/11 at 10:07 AM
Remember the 10: 10 years after the OSU plane crash
OSU plane crash incites change in athletic travel
Sutton: Players showed character
Memorial for OSU crash planned for Wednesday
Remember the 10: Look back
at some of the stories and images
from the plane crash that
claimed the lives of 10 members
of the OSU basketball program.
Read Q&As with Victor Williams.
Read Q&As with Andre Williams.
Ten men, including two Oklahoma State basketball players, lost their lives in a plane crash following a game at Colorado 10 years ago.
Their teammates fought through tears, nightmares and regret the remainder of that season - and they continued playing because they wanted to pay tribute to fallen comrades.
This is their story, in their words, and it starts with freshly signed Cowboy Andre Williams being picked up at an airport a year and a half prior to the crash by director of basketball operations Pat Noyes.
During the drive to Stillwater, Noyes told Williams he would be sharing a residence with a junior college transfer from Detroit and an ex-Edmond tennis player who walked onto the OSU basketball team. Their names? Daniel Lawson and Nate Fleming.
Lawson, Fleming and Noyes perished in the plane crash, along with Brian Luinstra, Will Hancock, Kendall Durfey, Denver Mills, Bjorn Fahlstrom, Jared Weiberg and Bill Teegins.
Forging ahead and reaching the NCAA Tournament were Cowboys who displayed true grit amid horrific circumstances: Maurice Baker, Victor Williams, Fred Jonzen, Terrence Crawford, Andre Williams, Melvin Sanders, Jason Keep, Jack Marlow, David Anderson, Antoine Broxsie, Ellis Kidd Jr. and redshirts Guy Ikpah and Ivan McFarlin.Jan. 27, 2001...
KEEP(now calls Phoenix home, but plays professionally in Turkey): I will never, ever forget that day in my life. It will forever live in infamy in my heart and soul. There's those days that you still ask yourself, "What if I was the one who stepped on that plane?" There wasn't a single player on that team that hadn't ever ridden on that plane with Denver Mills before.
ANDRE WILLIAMS (now working with Community Access Inc., in Stillwater): We left the airport that night and, as I remember it, you could hear chatter and stuff and they kept coming back and talking to coach (Eddie) Sutton when we (landed) and they asked a couple of strange questions about how many people were on that plane. And you really don't think anything of it. And then they told us before we left that one of the planes had some problems and had to land in Colorado.
So I went home thinking the plane had some mechanical errors and it made an emergency landing and the guys would be home late, so I go home and I'm spent. I'm exhausted from the trip to Colorado. I go home and I go to bed. Sometime before sunrise, in the early hours of the morning, Ivan is banging on my door and it's him and David Anderson and Jack Marlow and they are telling me I need to get up to the (basketball) office because something has happened. And I was like, "Well, what's going on?" And they told me one of the planes went down. And I was like, "I know." And they said, "No. One of the planes has crashed." And my heart dropped because I looked back at my room and Dan's door is still closed. And I get over to the office and there is just media everywhere and people everywhere. And it was just chaotic. And they were confirming what the basketball players already knew because we were sitting up there looking at each other like, "Who's not here?"
VICTOR WILLIAMS (now coaching in the Kansas City area): I went to five of them... Before that experience, I had only been to one funeral in my life and I was 7 years old when I went to it, so having to go through all five of those in a matter of three to four days was definitely tough.
ANDRE WILLIAMS: My true breaking point out of all of that was when I went to Colorado. When they originally dedicated the memorial, that was the first time I ever really had a chance to just cry and let everything out. It was something I wanted to do and needed to do and had to do. And it was something that really hurt me a lot. It seemed like it was still just a fresh crash site. You could almost smell things that were there and you could see where the earth had been moved and everything and the dead spots in the grass and the pole where the actual impact was. Seeing all that and then looking around and just seeing that it is in the middle of nowhere, that hurt because they deserved more than to go out in the middle of nowhere, almost anonymous names and faces in the middle of nowhere. Just nothing.
ANDRE WILLIAMS: Very much so. I ended up moving out of that apartment I was in because it was me and Dan's apartment. There would be nights where I would hear things. I'm a very spiritual person. I believe in God. I believe there is more out there than just our existence. And there would be nights where I would go to sleep and I know Dan's room would be locked from the outside and I was the only person with a key to it. And, in the morning, the door would be open. Still to this day, I don't sleep a whole lot.
KEEP: I had nightmares for years to come... But to this day I will never forget any one of those guys and the sacrifice those families endured during the whole ordeal.
JONZEN: (now an overseas pro who does front office work for a team in his hometown of Uppsala, Sweden): It was obviously very hard to get through, especially right after it happened. I couldn't sleep or eat and it felt like all the energy had been drawn out of me the first few weeks. But eventually the one thing that had brought us all together at OSU was basketball, and it made perfect sense to continue doing what we were there to do. That was the best way to honor those guys.
ANDRE WILLIAMS: We knew we couldn't just roll over and let the season die with everybody in the plane crash. We had to go on and finish what we started for those guys. We started that season with a goal and desire to get into the tournament and we wanted to play hard and win. We didn't want it to be the rebuilding year everybody thought it would be. We wanted to go out knowing that we gave it our all. We wanted moreso than anything to reach our goals for those (who died) because we knew how much it meant to be a Cowboy to those guys. Every one of those guys on that plane, if they were sitting here right now, they would echo that sentiment that it meant a lot to them just to don the OSU orange and black.
How players made it through the season...
ANDRE WILLIAMS: As much as I have been thinking about that season the last couple of months and especially the last couple of weeks, I still don't know. It's a blur honestly. Just to think about it and what all went on and what all was said, it was a blur. I can remember my freshman year very vividly. I can remember my junior year and my senior year very vividly. That (sophomore) year is really just a blur.
VICTOR WILLIAMS: Very few of us - if any of us - went to counselors or things like that because we relied on each other so much and coach Sutton. That's just how that team was built.
Winning the first game after the crash (against Missouri)...
VICTOR WILLIAMS: You are talking about guys playing on pure emotion. I couldn't even tell you any moment in the game or anything I had done or anything any other player did in that game because we were just playing with so much emotion and playing with so much heart. We were just kind of out there playing with our hearts on the line. It was just one of those things where you ran a little faster, you jumped a little higher, you played a little stronger just because those guys were with you.
Locker room after the first post-crash game...
VICTOR WILLIAMS: It was kind of a somber feeling. It wasn't a feeling of we won or we lost. It was more of a feeling of wishing the guys were there to experience it with us. That was the hump that we had to get over going forward is we had to remember those guys weren't there.
Boarding a plane for the first post-crash road trip...
KEEP: I actually jumped on a plane before we went to Nebraska to go to Dan Lawson's funeral and I must say I don't know if I had ever been more scared in my whole life than at that moment. Honestly, I almost didn't go if it hadn't been for Antoine Broxsie in my ear comforting me.
BROXSIE (now calls Tampa, Fla., home but plays for pro team in Indonesia): For me it wasn't that difficult at all, because I have always understood that even though bad things may happen in your life, life continues to move on and you can either move with it or stay focused on the events from the past.
Winning 20 games to reach the NCAA Tournament...
VICTOR WILLIAMS: I think that it was definitely something that proved how resilient and tough that group was. Very few people on any team can say they went through an experience like that. And for us to bond together and be one of 64 teams to make it to the tournament says a lot about coach Sutton and it says a lot about the group of guys we had that year.
Lopsided first-round NCAA Tournament loss...
ANDRE WILLIAMS: USC was a great team that year. I do remember the spanking they gave us. But we were a better team than what we showed on the court that day and I think we showed it, because we were down 35 or almost 40 points at one time. We made it a respectable game. We were a good team that year, but we were just completely spent emotionally.
ANDRE WILLIAMS: I don't think we were heroes. I think we all made the best of a really, really bad situation. We didn't do anything heroic. The guys who gave their lives, or whose lives were taken, those, to me, are heroes - Bill Teegins, Dan Lawson, Nate Fleming. Those guys were the heroic ones, their sacrifice. What we did is we just went out and played a game that we loved to play. We made the most of a really bad situation.
MCFARLIN (now working with disabled people in Stillwater while waiting for next pro season in Australia): We became brothers.
BROXSIE: I don't have one day that I don't think about at least one of them.
ANDRE WILLIAMS: Out of all the guys that I played with, the guys from that year are probably the ones I am closest to and the ones I try to keep tabs on the most just for the simple fact that there was so much given emotionally that year. I want to know that those guys, moreso than anybody, are all right. And that includes the families.
BROXSIE: I think from time to time about how good it would be just to talk with my friends again. I felt like a piece of me left when I lost those guys.
KEEP: There's not an airplane I step on that I don't think about that day or the fact that, is today my day?
VICTOR WILLIAMS: Before that experience, I would always be the one to take things for granted. You see guys and you think I will see them tomorrow or I will call them tomorrow or I will tell them I love them tomorrow. It can always be put off. But when you go through an experience like that, you realize how valuable each day is. And, to this day, you ask people that are around me or people who know me and I always make sure I tell them that I love 'em or I appreciate 'em or they are important to me just because of my experiences.
If I could do it all over again, that's one wish I have is, before we got on that plane back from Colorado, I would have told each and every last one of them that I loved them and they were very important to me. That's still something that will always haunt me for the rest of my life is you take time and you take moments for granted.
What was learned...
JONZEN: When people ask me these types of questions... I don't really know what to say. What is there to learn really? Ten people were killed way before their time and there's absolutely nothing good to take away from that. A classic response is "I don't take life for granted." Well, what does that really mean? I live my life as normal as I can and I think it looks the same way whether that accident had happened or not. It was a tragic accident that took away 10 great guys and it shouldn't have happened. (It's) as simple as that. The one thing it teaches you I guess is that, after any type of grief situation, the best way is to learn how to move on and continue living your life. That's what we were trying to do that year and that's what we all have been doing the past 10 years. We definitely miss all those guys, but we had to learn to move on and not look back."
Here is an explanation of the buttons on the player above.
Play slide show with sound
Next image / play slide show without sound
Expand the slide show to full screen
To see each slide
To see all of the Tulsa World slide shows, go to tulsaworld.com/photos.
Original Print Headline: Haunting memories
Jimmie Tramel 581-8389
The season before the plane crash in 2001, Andre Williams was roomates with Daniel Lawson and Nate Fleming, the two players who died. He was still living with Lawson at the time of the crash. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Antoine Broxsie hugs Jason Keep with Fredrik Jonzen in the background after a memorial service at Gallagher-Iba Arena. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World file
The OSU basketball team gathers before a game against Missouri on Feb. 5, 2001. It was the first game the Cowboys played after the plane crash. The Cowboys won, 69-66. Tulsa World file