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Stewart Crash Reminiscent of Rein

October 25, 1999

The crash of a Learjet that killed pro golfer Payne Stewart on Monday was very similar to an accident nearly 20 years ago that took the life of Louisiana State University football coach Bo Rein.

Rein, who had not coached a game yet for LSU, left Shreveport, La., on Jan. 10, 1980, in a private plane, en route to Baton Rouge, the home of LSU, following a recruiting trip.

But the plane, with a pilot aboard, went through a thunderstorm, lost radio contact and mysteriously flew off course for hundreds of miles before it went down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia coast.

The Cessna 411 Conquest turboprop, which had a pressurized cabin, climbed as high as 41,000 feet as Air Force jets followed it. It suddenly fell into the ocean, apparently after running out of fuel.

An Air Force captain flying one of the chase planes, Daniel Zoerb, said the plane went down in an out-of-control, spinning descent.

``The lights disappeared below me ... I didn’t see a fireball or explosion,″ Zoerb said at the time.

Zoerb was the last of three military pilots to try to intercept the plane and shake it from its wayward path. Two pilots had attempted to intercept the aircraft near Raleigh after being alerted through the national air defense system.

Rein’s body and that of the pilot were never recovered. Investigators were never able to determine exactly what happened, but speculated that the plane might have lost its pressure.

Rein’s widow, Suzanne Kay, reached an out-of-court settlement in 1982 on a $10 million damage suit against the Cessna Aircraft Co., Cruise Aviation Inc., which had serviced the plane and Nichols Construction Co., which owned it. The amount of the settlement was not revealed.

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