Grief Sobers Campus After Three Top Officials Die In Plane Crash
BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) _ A light mist muted the already quiet grounds of Western Washington University, adding to the somber atmosphere on campus following the deaths of three top school officials in a plane crash.
″It’s kind of full of shock and devastation,″ university spokesman Steve Kurtz said Friday. ″To lose three leaders and three friends is hard; it’s pretty tough to take.″
G. Robert Ross, 59, president of the 9,559-student school; Jeanene DeLille, 38, vice president for university advancement; and Don Cole, 50, vice president for business and financial affairs, were killed late Wednesday along with pilot Ty Hardan, 28.
The administrators were returning from a dinner with alumni and legislators in Tacoma when their chartered Cessna 310 plowed through one-quarter mile of forest northwest of Bellingham and disintegrated.
Their bodies were found Thursday, more than 18 hours after the crash.
Gov. Booth Gardner ordered flags flown at half staff, and a memorial service is scheduled for Monday at Carver Gymnasium on the university campus.
Investigators said Friday it could take months to determine why the plane crashed in a sparsely populated, three-mile long stretch between an aluminum plant and an oil refinery.
A Federal Aviation Administration official said Friday that Hardan’s commercial pilot’s license was lifted for three months in 1986 for two 1985 violations: flying too low and taking off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport without clearance. However, investigators stressed they had found no evidence linking the violations and the crash.
Kari Morrison, a freshman from Auburn, said the crash was a main topic of conversation on campus, where the atmosphere was ″just different.″
John Bremer, a junior from Bellingham, said Ross had a good reputation among students as approachable, although he guessed most students didn’t really know the administrators.
″I think for most people, like me, the administration is something you never deal with,″ he said.
But one who did deal with the victims was Dan Wood, president of Western Washington’s associated students.
″I feel like I’ve lost three good friends,″ Wood said. ″Ross has a good sense of humor, and always finds something to be positive about.″
When a listener mentioned that he was speaking in the present tense, Wood said, ″It’s hard to change.″
The task of running the university fell to Albert Froderberg, acting vice president for academic affairs.
″We look at the efforts they’ve made ... and we rededicate ourselves, I guess, to carrying on not just the things that they were doing but charting new courses,″ Froderberg said.
″You know, two weeks ago we were named one of the 10 best comprehensive colleges in the West and Midwest, and everybody was feeling very good about the institution. And now this,″ he added.
″We’re on a roller coaster, but we’ll get over it.″