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basketball coach and 6 others KILLED in PLANE crash on their way home from NCAA championship game

Crash

  • Plane left Indianapolis and crashed near Bloomington airport after midnight
  • Among the dead were pilot, business owner, Illinois State director of athletics Aaron Leetch, Wells Fargo employee and Sprint representative 
  • There was fog in the area when the plane, a Cessna 414, crashed near airport  
  • Illinois State associate head basketball coach Torrey Ward was also killed
  • Terry Stralow, the owner of a bar called the Pub II, also died in the crash
  • Ward cryptically tweeted 'My ride to the game wasn't bad' before the tragedy 
  • FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash 

A college basketball coach, a bar owner and a businessman were among seven killed in a private plane crash as they returned from the NCAA championship game. 

Illinois State associate coach Torrey Ward, meat processing business owner Scott Bittner and bar owner Terry Stralow have been confirmed as among the dead when the Cessna 414 crashed near Bloomington, Illinois, shortly after midnight on Tuesday.

The party had been at the NCAA championship game between Duke and Wisconsin in Indianapolis, and Ward had made a last tweet showing off his transport to the game. 

He posted a picture of an aircraft different to the Cessna on Twitter with the words 'My ride to the game wasn't bad'. 

Bittner was married with a ten-year-old son and a twelve-year-old daughter. 

ISU's deputy director of athletics for external affairs, Aaron Leetch, was also killed in the crash about two miles away from Central Illinois Regional Airport.

Scroll down for video 

Ward tweeted out what appears to be a different aircraft to the Cessna just before the national championship game tipped off

Ward tweeted out what appears to be a different aircraft to the Cessna just before the national championship game tipped off

Illinois State associate head basketball coach Torrey Ward who played pro ball in China, was also killed
Bittner owned a meat processing business called Bittner’s Meat Company

Killed: Illinois State associate head basketball coach Torrey Ward, left, and businessman Scott Bittner, right, were killed in the crash 

A small plane on its way back from Indianapolis, Indiana, crashed near the city of Bloomington in central Illinois

A small plane on its way back from Indianapolis, Indiana, crashed near the city of Bloomington in central Illinois

The plane, a Cessna 414 (example pictured), was on its way back from the NCAA championship basketball game 

The plane, a Cessna 414 (example pictured), was on its way back from the NCAA championship basketball game 

All seven occupants were pronounced dead by the county coroner, according to McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage.

The other three occupants were Jason Jones, Andy Butler and Tom Hileman, WJBC reported. 

Jones worked for Wells Fargo, Butler was a regional representative for Sprint and Hileman was the pilot. 

Scott Barrows, the father-in-law of Bittner, said his son-in-law had a regular pilot, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

His son-in-law owned a meat processing business called Bittner’s Meat Company, which is a division of Eureka Locker, the Pantagraph reported. 

He met Barrows' daughter at Illinois State University.  

Barrows said: 'They were supposed to land around midnight. 

'My daughter was called at 4am. There was no contact.

'It has been confirmed they are dead. 

'She's in shock, obviously. 

'It's going to be tough, but we'll be there for them.

'I'll be there for our grandchildren.' 

ISU's deputy director of athletics for external affairs, Aaron Leetch (pictured above), was also killed in the crash

ISU's deputy director of athletics for external affairs, Aaron Leetch (pictured above), was also killed in the crash

ISU's Director of Athletics, Larry Lyons said: 'The Redbird family and the Bloomington-Normal community has suffered a terrible loss today. We will miss Aaron and Torrey deeply, and we will support their families'

ISU's Director of Athletics, Larry Lyons said: 'The Redbird family and the Bloomington-Normal community has suffered a terrible loss today. We will miss Aaron and Torrey deeply, and we will support their families'

Terry Stralow (pictured), who was the co-owner of Pub II in Normal, has been confirmed as among the dead

Terry Stralow (pictured), who was the co-owner of Pub II in Normal, has been confirmed as among the dead

Pub II waitress Maddie DeGaealu and longtime customerKen Hoffacker embrace while comforting each other

Pub II waitress Maddie DeGaealu and longtime customerKen Hoffacker embrace while comforting each other

Pub II waitress Amanda Leggett (left) and Emily Schroeder (right) cry prior to decorating the exterior of the bar

Pub II waitress Amanda Leggett (left) and Emily Schroeder (right) cry prior to decorating the exterior of the bar

Before coming to Illinois State in 2012, Ward coached as an assistant for five seasons at Ole Miss. 

He also played professionally in China after playing his college ball at UAB.

Like Bittner, Ward is survived by two children. 

ISU's Director of Athletics, Larry Lyons said: 'The Redbird family and the Bloomington-Normal community has suffered a terrible loss today.

Aaron Leetch was a shining star in this business. He had a gift in dealing with people and building relationships. Our external units were making incredible progress under his leadership, and he was on that trip doing what he does best. 

Torrey Ward was a big part of the success taking place with our men's basketball program. He had a big personality, was a talented coach and recruiter, and our fans loved him.

Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those involved. There is no play in the playbook for times like these. 

We will miss Aaron and Torrey deeply, and we will support their families in any way that we can. To honor their individual and collective legacies, we will move the Redbirds and our community forward.'

Jason Jones (left) worked for Wells Fargo. All seven occupants were pronounced dead by the county coroner

Jason Jones (left) worked for Wells Fargo. All seven occupants were pronounced dead by the county coroner

Andy Butler was a regional representative for Sprint. He was one of seven people killed in the deadly crash

Andy Butler was a regional representative for Sprint. He was one of seven people killed in the deadly crash

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash

Bittner bought the meat business in 1994 and worked alongside his employees on a daily basis.

Stralow was the co-owner of Pub II in Normal.  

The twin engine plane belonged to his father Terry Bittner, according to reports.  

In 2005, Bittner’s became the only “processing facility” in the state of Illinois to receive an Organic Processing Certificate, according to the company's website. 

The company processed hams, bacon, beef sticks and other foods, Farm Show reported. 

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.  

McLean County Sheriff confirms no survivors in plane crash
McLean County Sheriff's Department Sheriff Jon Sandage and coroner Kathy Davis spoke at a press conference

McLean County Sheriff's Department Sheriff Jon Sandage and coroner Kathy Davis spoke at a press conference

There were seven people on the plane when it crashed around 12am, including Bittner, a father of two children

There were seven people on the plane when it crashed around 12am, including Bittner, a father of two children

The men on the plane watched the Duke Blue Devils hoist the championship trophy after defeating Wisconsin

The men on the plane watched the Duke Blue Devils hoist the championship trophy after defeating Wisconsin

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Comment by E Peters on April 8, 2015 at 12:54pm
Yes a terrible tragedy. Peace and blessings to their families.
Comment by Verona Mckoy on April 8, 2015 at 12:46pm
So very sad, smh, may their families find comfort in their time of grief, RIP
Comment by Roots aka TJ What De Ras on April 8, 2015 at 9:10am
What a tragic. May god rest their soul and bring a comforting spirit over their family, friends and love ones.
Comment by iisha hargrove on April 7, 2015 at 10:52pm
So sad condolences to the families
Comment by Natricia Morgan on April 7, 2015 at 9:24pm
Wow, this is so sad. My heart goes out to their families.
Comment by lynz on April 7, 2015 at 9:19pm
Let me first say RIP to the deceased and my condolences to their families.
Now, for now, I'll just say I'm very suspicious, but I'll wait for the investigation report before. I really hope no foul play involved.

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