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Pro Golfer Stewart Killed in Crash

October 25, 1999

A Learjet carrying golf champion Payne Stewart flew uncontrolled over the nation’s heartland for hours today before crashing in South Dakota, killing everyone aboard.

Government officials said the plane, believed to have five people on board, may have suffered a pressurization failure.

``It is difficult to express our sense of shock and sadness over the death of Payne Stewart,″ said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement issued from PGA headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The aircraft left Orlando, Fla., about 9:20 EDT bound for Dallas, and the last communication came was when the plane was over Gainesville, Fla., said Tony Molinaro, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Chicago.

Stewart, who lived in Orlando, had been expected in Houston on Tuesday for practice rounds in advance of the Tour Championship, the PGA Tour’s final tournament of the year for the top 30 players on its money list. Stewart went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas and still had friends in the area.

The plane, a Lear 35, had flown as high as 45,000 feet and the crew did not respond to repeated inquiries from air traffic controllers, said Paul Turk, an FAA spokesman.

An Air Force F-16 fighter jet from Tyndall, Fla., was diverted from a routine training flight to check out the jet, Air Force officials said. Two F-15 fighters from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., then took over to follow it and they later handed off the monitoring to two Air National Guard F-16s from Tulsa, Okla.

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