OKLAHOMA CITY – The son of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe was killed in a weekend plane crash in northeast Oklahoma, the U.S. Secretary of Defense confirmed.
Dr. Perry Inhofe, a 52-year-old orthopedic surgeon, died when the small plane he was piloting crashed Sunday near Owasso, a Tulsa suburb. 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."
Perry Inhofe, who worked at Central States Orthopedics in Tulsa, was one of four children of Oklahoma's senior U.S. senator. He earned his undergraduate degree from Duke University in 1984 and graduated from medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, according to the clinic's website. Telephone messages left Monday at Inhofe's clinic weren't immediately returned.
The married father lived in Tulsa.
The multiengine plane he was piloting was headed to Tulsa International Airport when it crashed shortly before 4 p.m. on Sunday, about five miles north of the airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane had taken off from Salina, Kan.
Jake Bray told the Tulsa World newspaper that he saw the crash from about 400 yards away, saying one propeller appeared to be out before "it started spiraling out of control and it hit the ground."
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said in a statement Monday night that he extends "sincere condolences" to Sen. Inhofe, his wife and the rest of the family.
"There is no greater heartbreak for a parent than the loss of a child," he said.
Jim Inhofe, 79, has been a pilot for more than 50 years and owns several planes. The Republican is known for flying to campaign stops across the state.
In an interview earlier this year with General Aviation News, the senator said he taught his son Perry to fly in the family's 1954 Grumman Tiger and that the tradition was passed on to Perry's 16-year-old son, Cole, who made his first landing in September at an air show in Wisconsin.
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 same model has come under increased scrutiny in recent years 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.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.