7 Killed In Plane Crash After Leaving NCAA Tournament Championship Game – One Was College Coach

Seven people died in a small plane crash in Illinois on Tuesday after they were returning home from the 2015 NCAA Tournament Championship Game that was held in Indianapolis, Indiana on Monday night. One of them was a college basketball assistant head coach by the name of Torrey Ward.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the plane crash happened near the Bloomington airport overnight. The plane that crashed was a small twin-engine Cessna 414.

plane crash ncaa championship

Among those who died in the crash was Terry Stralow, a partner in a popular bar in the Bloomington-Normal area. Scott Bittner also perished in the crash and was the owner of a meat-processing company and the plane itself.

The NY Daily News did also reported that among those dead was Illinois State associate men’s head basketball coach Torrey Ward. Illinois State is a college located in the Bloomington-Normal area, and he was also in Indianapolis for the 2015 NCAA Championship Game.

Scott Barrows, the father-in-law of Bittner, spoke with the Tribune. “(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,” Scott 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.”

An investigation is ongoing by the National Transportation Safety Board, and there was no initial word on what may have caused the crash. Since time has gone on, many news photos show dense fog at the scene of the plane crash, and some investigators believe it may have played a part in it.

Bittner lived with his wife and two children in Towanda, right outside of Bloomington.

“He always told me that he wasn’t my boss, that I didn’t work for him, I worked with him,” said Terry Wertz, who has worked at Bittner’s Meat Co. for 15 years. “He was awful good to me and my family,” Wertz said through tears. “If I needed anything, he’d do anything for you.”

The plane had been in contact with air traffic control in Peoria. After the Central Illinois Airport radio tower closes at 10 p.m., that air traffic control center takes over for communication. At some point, “that radio contact was lost,” but there was no word on if the pilot said the plane was having trouble.

“(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,” said Barrows, a former UIC faculty member. “They were supposed to land around midnight. My daughter was called at 4 a.m. There was no contact,” he said. “It has been confirmed they are dead.”

Barrows said his son-in-law owned the plane, but he had a regular pilot. “They had a pilot, he was very experienced,” he said.

Many friends and family of those revealed to have died in the plane crash coming home from the 2015 NCAA Tournament Championship Game have not spoken yet and asked that their privacy be respected in this time of grief.

[Image via David Proeber – Bloomington Pantagraph/ESRI]