Five college football fans lost their lives Saturday when, en route via plane to the annual Peach Bowl game in Atlanta between the LSU Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners, their small aircraft crashed into a U.S. Post Office parking lot in the mid-sized Louisiana town of Lafayette.
Included among the deceased was New Orleans station WDSU sports reporter Carley McCord, who just also happened to be the daughter-in-law of LSU Tigers’ offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Steve Ensminger.
It is with broken hearts that we share that WDSU lost a beloved member of our team today. Our hearts are with the McCord and Ensminger families at this time. https://t.co/H76Mvjkooj
— wdsu (@wdsu) December 28, 2019
Also included among the deceased were …
Pilot Ian E. Biggs:
— jacob landry (@jacobthehoss) December 28, 2019
Global Data Systems vice president Robert Vaughn Crisp, II:
Global Data Systems president Chris Vincent and his wife, Gretchen Vincent:
Our family is devastated today by the news of the fatal plane crash that happened in Louisiana today. We have known the…
Posted by Brian Ward on Saturday, December 28, 2019
One passenger, Global Data Systems vice president of sales Stephen Wade Berzas, survived the crash, though he remained in critical condition as of Sunday:
“Three other individuals were injured on the ground who were not passengers,” local station KATC has confirmed. “Two individuals who were in the post office were transported to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, according to Lafayette Fire Department Chief Robert Benoit. He added that they seem to be okay.”
“Lafayette General Medical Center says that one patient was received at the facility’s trauma center at 9:58 a.m. That patient was listed in critical condition and was confirmed to be a bystander who was injured in a nearby parking lot. This patient was transferred to a facility in New Orleans.”
According to witnesses, the plane hit a power line, hit a suburban and Jeep and then reportedly “blew up.”
“When that airplane tilted, it hit that post first then hit that suburban and Jeep…then it just blew up,” one witness said to KATC.
Another witness theorized that bad weather may have played a role in what happened.
“He was crashing, he was going down. I think he got inverted in the fog and couldn’t see,” the witness said. “Once he came out of the fog he wasn’t high at all. I think he tried to throttle up and by the time he throttled up, he was facing the ground. He hit hard.”
Horrifying video footage recorded immediately after the crash may be seen below:
Despite losing his daughter-in-law in the crash, LSU coach Steve Ensminger remained on the field at the Peach Bowl and helped lead the team to a stunning, emotional 63-28 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners.
Sports Illustrated confirmed that he learned of McCord’s death from LSU head coach Ed Orgeron only hours before the game. But even with the weight of her death on his mind, he persisted.
“There was never a doubt that Ensminger would coach, living up to his reputation of toughness and grit, of hard work and focus,” Sports Illustrated reported. “After all, Steve sometimes sleeps in a cot in his office during fall camp.”
“He’s a journeyman of a coach, fired three times as a coordinator or assistant, humble enough to find ways to dodge media interviews, the focus of hard fan criticism upon his promotion to offensive coordinator in 2018. Those close to him aren’t surprised by the strong will he showed Saturday.”
“Only Slinger,” LSU receivers coach Mickey Joseph said in admiration, reportedly using Ensminger’s nickname.
“For Coach E to come out and call the plays he called… somebody was watching over him,” running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire added.
Ensminger may be seen below walking the field after the team’s victory:
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) December 29, 2019
He didn’t lead the team to victory just because it was part of his job — he also reportedly did it for his son.
“His son and namesake, Steven Jr., so shaken by the news that family members rushed him to the hospital, lay in a bed in a medicated state, on sedatives, in and out of reality—until dad called,” Sports Illustrated noted.
That call was made only moments before warmups began.
“He called his son. He told him that everything would be O.K., that he’d make it through this dark hour. He told him that he loved him and to be strong and have faith. He also made him a promise. As the call ended, dad told son what was coming next. ‘The team is behind you, these coaches are behind you,’ Steven recalls his father saying, ‘and we are about to go beat Oklahoma’s a– for you.'”
And that’s exactly what they did.
What Ensminger didn’t do was bury his daughter-in-law’s death in the back of his mind, despite a theory by a now-embattled ESPN reporter.
“Certainly our thoughts and prayers with coach and his family, as he gets to do his job and try to put away the distraction of losing his daughter-in-law just hours before kickoff,” ESPN’s Matt Barrie said on air before the game began.
“The distraction of losing his daughter-in-law”
I mean, holy shit. pic.twitter.com/crEUdsUjpV
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) December 28, 2019
That stunningly insensitive remark hasn’t been well-received by the public:
I know your job is to talk about the game but in moments like these is when your humanity should kick in. Death of his daughter in law is not “a distraction..”. Just say “Ensminger will be coaching with a heavy heart today..” Producers, help dude fix this. pic.twitter.com/F5Gq17WqhL
— Annie Apple (@SurvivinAmerica) December 28, 2019
Let’s not refer to an LSU assistant coach losing one of his children in a plane crash as a “distraction” from the football game at hand
— Alex Kirshner (@alex_kirshner) December 28, 2019
“Try and put away the distraction of losing his daughter-in-law”?!? Jesus ESPN can we not categorize the loss of human life, especially one that’s family, as a “distraction”? Come on…
— James Niemeyer (@jrniemeyer) December 28, 2019
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