The Payne Stewart Tragedy

A pile of twisted metal in a South Dakota field may hold the only clues as investigators try to figure out why a plane carrying golf champion Payne Stewart and five other people mysteriously hurtled pilotless for 1,400 miles across the country before crashing to earth. There were no survivors. A six-member National Transportation Safety Board team walked through the crash site Monday evening, hours after the Learjet nose-dived into the field. They did a cursory inspection of the wreckage and returned at dawn today. Stewart, 42, won 18 tournaments during his career, including the 1999 U.S. Open, which he won this past June with a dramatic 15-foot putt on the last hole. He is survived by his wife Tracey and their two children, Chelsea, 13, and Aaron, 10.

  • Also killed were Stewart’s agents, Robert Fraley and Van Ardan, and the two pilots, Michael Kling, 43, and Stephanie Bellegarrigue, 27. Although the original passenger load was thought to have been five people, another person was apparently onboard: golf course designer Bruce Borland, 40.
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