The son of U.S. Senator James Inhofe was killed in a weekend plane crash near Tulsa, Oklahoma, the office of the U.S. Defense Secretary said on Monday.
Neither the senator's office nor Oklahoma law enforcement officials would confirm the death, but local media reported unnamed family members and the mayor of Tulsa as saying that Perry Inhofe died in the crash of a small aircraft on Sunday.
"I was deeply saddened to learn that Senator Jim Inhofe's son Perry was killed in a plane crash this weekend," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement. "The entire Department of Defense community stands with the Inhofe's at this tragic time, with enduring appreciation for all they do on behalf of our military."
A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma senator, a Republican and the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said he would not comment until the medical examiner releases a report on the crash.
Tulsa television station FOX23 said Perry Inhofe, 52, was aboard a small plane that crashed in Owasso, about 20 miles northeast of Tulsa.
Inhofe, an orthopedic surgeon in Tulsa, studied at Washington University in St. Louis and Duke University.
"Dr. Perry Inhofe was a man of great integrity, skilled as a surgeon, and an example for all of us," Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett was quoted as saying by broadcaster Fox23.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator said one person was on board the Mitsubishi MU-2 that crashed in wooded terrain about 5 miles north of the Tulsa airport and then caught fire. He did not identify the person.
James Inhofe has been in the Senate since 1994. Inhofe is an avid pilot with more than 11,000 flight hours, becoming the only member of Congress to fly an airplane around the world, according to his biography on his website.
In September, General Aviation News ran a story about Inhofe teaching his son Perry how to fly more than 30 years ago.
(Reporting by Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City and Lisa Lambert in Washington; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)