(Photo: Reuters/Mohammed Jalil/Pool)
The son of U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), is confirmed dead after a plane crash near Owasso, Okla., on Sunday. The National Transportation and Safety Board held a news conference late Monday confirming that Dr. Perry Inhofe, 52, an orthopedic surgeon from Tulsa, was the sole person on the plane during the fatal crash.
The NTSB confirmed an earlier report by the Tulsa International Airport that Perry Inhofe, the pilot of the plane, issued a distress call around 3:30 p.m. Sunday asking for immediate assistance. The plane, which had left the Salina, Kan., airport for Tulsa, crashed around 4 p.m. in a heavily wooded area five miles north of the airport.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers had confirmed Sunday that the lone person on the plane died in the crash; and a source close to Sen. Inhofe told KOCO-TV that his son, who had been licensed as a pilot since 2009, was the sole person on board the aircraft.
NTSB said their investigation into the fatal crash that killed Inhofe and destroyed the plane in a fire is ongoing as they continue to collect evidence from the site.
According to Inhofe's biographical information on the Central States Orthopedics website, he graduated from Duke University in 1984, and studied biomedical engineering and electrical engineering.
Inhofe then attended Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., for medical school, graduated in 1988, and completed his postgraduate training at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "was informed of Sen. Inhofe's son's death."
"My thoughts and prayers are with Jim and Kay and their family as they mourn this terrible loss," Hagel said in a statement Monday, adding that the entire Department of Defense supports the Inhofe family and has "enduring appreciation for all they do on behalf of our military."
Sen. Inhofe, 79, an Army veteran who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been a pilot for more than 50 years and shares on his website that he's "an avid pilot with over 11,000 flight hours [and] became the only member of Congress to fly an airplane around the world when he recreated Wiley Post's legendary trip around the globe."
According to The Associated Press, "a tail number provided by the National Transportation and Safety Board shows that the plane Perry Inhofe was flying Sunday was a 1974 Mitsubishi MU-2B-25, a fixed-wing, multi-engine aircraft."
The AP also reports that this model of aircraft has come under increased scrutiny from the FAA after statistics showed a rising rate of accidents involving the plane. As a result, the agency developed a new comprehensive standardized pilot training program for the aircraft in 2008.
Perry Inhofe was one of the senator's four children.