The Illinois State community is mourning the loss of several members of the Redbird family in a plane crash early Tuesday near Bloomington-Normal.

The fallen Redbirds include Athletics staff members Aaron Leetch and Torrey Ward; alumni Terry Stralow ’74 (co-owner of Pub II in Normal), Andy Butler ’96, and Jason Jones, M.S. ’93; and former student Scott Bittner. All seven men who were on board the plane, including pilot Thomas Hileman, were “Redbird guys,” said Athletics Director Larry Lyons ’86.

“Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those involved. There is no play in the playbook for times like these,” Lyons said in a statement. “We will miss Aaron and Torrey deeply, and we will support their families in any way that we can. To honor their individual and collective legacies, we will move the Redbirds and our community forward.”

Their deaths have sparked an outpouring of support from Redbirds and other supporters across the U.S. Here are just a few of their tweets, posts, and stories:

Ryan Denham can be reached at

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