Remembering The ‘Redbird 7’

A memorial to those lost on April 7, 2015 outside Redbird Arena in Normal.

A permanent memorial to those lost on April 7, 2015 remains outside Redbird Arena in Normal

Illinois State University Athletics

One year ago Thursday, an Illinois State University assistant basketball coach and an associate athletic director were among seven who died when a small Cessna crashed just north of the Central Illinois Regional Airport.

Killed in the crash were Associate head men's basketball coach Torrey Ward and Deputy Director of Athletics Aaron Leetch, businessmen Andy Butler, Scott Bittner, Jason Jones, Terry Stralow, and pilot Tom Hileman.

The men were on their way back from Indianapolis where the NCAA men's championship basketball game took place the night before.

ISU Director of Athletics Larry Lyons said that was one of the hardest weeks for Redbird Athletics.

"It was just - all hands on deck," he said.  "Which was, kind of the whole week was like that.  Just people did what they needed to do.  And other thing I will say is, my staff put their grief on a shelf, and said 'we got to get this done for these people.'"

The families of those lost have organized a Pay It Forward event called Project 7. The event encourages people to do seven random acts of kindness on Thursday.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio