Illinois State athletic staffers among seven killed in plane crash

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Illinois State University men’s basketball associate head coach Torrey Ward was one of seven people killed in an airplane crash Monday night outside of Bloomington, Illinois.

The wreckage was found shortly after 3 a.m. in a field one mile northeast of the airport. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause.

Ward, 36, had been on the Redbirds’ staff since the 2012-2013 season. He played in college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and previously held assistant positions at the University of Mississippi and Jacksonville State.

Aaron Leetch, deputy director of athletics for external relations, was also killed in the crash according to an email sent by ISU President Larry Dietz to students, faculty and staff.

Leetch, 37, had held his position with the athletic department since 2013.

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From 2005-2011, Leetch held other roles within the university athletic department, rising as high as senior associate athletic director. Between his two stints at ISU, he served as the athletic director at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.

The flight was returning from Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game in Indianapolis. The plane crashed just short of Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington.

“Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those involved,” said Larry Lyons, ISU director of athletics, in a statement. “There is no play in the playbook for times like these.”

Authorities confirmed the deaths of the pilot and all six passengers, but are withholding names until families of the victims were notified.

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