Tracey Stewart Testifies to Jury in Crash Trial

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The widow of golfer Payne Stewart testified tearfully Friday that telling her two young children that their father had died in a plane crash was 'the hardest thing I ever had to do.'
 
Tracey Stewart told the jury that she brought her daughter, Chelsea, and son, Aaron, into her bedroom to break the news that the Learjet in which Payne Stewart was a passenger had crashed. Stewart and her family are seeking damages against the plane's manufacturers for her husband's 1999 death.
 
'I said 'Daddy's plane has crashed.' Chelsea started screaming. Aaron is going 'No! No!'' Tracey Stewart said as she choked up on the witness stand. 'I put my arms around them and said, 'It's OK. Daddy's OK. He's in heaven with God.''
 
The Learjet lost cabin pressure soon after taking off from Orlando on the morning of Oct. 25, 1999, killing all aboard within minutes. The plane then began an eerie journey across America before running out of fuel and nose-diving into a South Dakota pasture.
 
Stewart said she missed being spoiled on her birthday and their anniversary by her husband, who had won the U.S. Open, his third major championship, just months before his death.
 
'I miss being loved. I miss being romanced. I miss being with him. He always said to me, 'We're so lucky we have so much love and laughter in our lives,'' Stewart said. 'I miss seeing him with his children ... I miss him at Christmastime and all the holidays. He used to make it so much fun. He made me feel like a kid again.'
 
The Australian-born Stewart recounted how she had met her future husband, a native of Springfield, Mo., in the early 1980s at a golf tournament in Malaysia, where she had accompanied her brother, also a golfer.
 
After making eye contact, but not saying anything to each other for a day or two, Payne Stewart finally had a friend introduce them. Their first, informal date was feeding bananas to monkeys along the golf course's fairway, she said.
 
After their marriage, she accompanied him on the road as he tried to break into the PGA tour. She shagged his golf balls when he practiced on the driving range.
 
'It was fun. It was an adventure,' Stewart said. 'We were young and just wanted to be together.'
 
The trial was expected to continue Tuesday with the defense presenting its case. Circuit Judge Jay Cohen on Friday denied motions for a mistrial and to have the case thrown out.
 
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