Wife also dies; son critically hurt in northern Michigan
Archie Ingersoll and Dominic Adams
The Journal Gazette
Heather Lockwood, Petoskey News-Review | Special
An emergency worker views the wreckage of a plane that crashed into a garage near the airport in Charlevoix, Mich., on Friday night. Dr. Stephen Hatch and his wife, Kim, of Fort Wayne were killed in the crash.
Dr. Stephen Hatch, a local doctor and flying enthusiast who lost a wife and two children in a plane crash in 2003, died Friday night when his small airplane struck a garage near an airport in northwest Michigan.
The crash Friday also killed Hatch’s current wife, Kim, and critically injured his son, Austin, a basketball standout at Canterbury High School.
About 7:30 p.m., the single-engine plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza owned by Hatch, plowed into the garage on a residential street just north of the Charlevoix Municipal Airport, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The plane, which took off from Fort Wayne’s Smith Field, was headed for Boyne Falls but was diverted to Charlevoix for an unknown reason, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration said. Boyne Falls is about 30 miles southeast of Charlevoix, a resort town on Lake Michigan.
Hatch’s medical practice partner, Dr. David Bojrab, said Hatch, 46, his wife and son were headed for nearby Walloon Lake, where the family has a summer home.
“It’s all surreal when you first hear it,” said Bojrab, who knew Hatch for 16 years. “It’s just starting to sink in.”
Austin, a junior guard/forward, accepted a basketball scholarship offer this month to play at the University of Michigan. He was in critical condition Saturday night at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Mich., according to a nursing supervisor at the hospital.
Bojrab said Austin is in an induced coma after suffering bruising on his brain, as well as minor fractures to his ribs and collarbone. Austin may make a full recovery, but with bruising on his brain, there remains the question of whether he’ll regain all his capacities, he said.
“He’s very lucky given the circumstances,” Bojrab said. “He’s a highly skilled athlete, and so we’re hoping that he recovers fully and is playing basketball next year for Canterbury.”
Austin has already proved he can overcome a tragedy. In 2003, when he was 8 years old, he and his father survived a plane crash that killed his mother, Julie L. Hatch, and his siblings – Lindsay, 11, and Ian, 5. The plane, also a Beechcraft Bonanza, crashed at County Road 100 West between 800 and 900 North in Wells County on Sept. 1, 2003.
Hatch and his family were flying from Michigan to Fort Wayne. Hatch decided to land at Fort Wayne International Airport rather than Smith Field that night, but was unable to bring the plane down on his first attempt. He ended up trying to make an emergency landing in a farm field, but the plane’s left side hit a utility pole and was engulfed in flames.
Hatch suffered burns over 25 percent of his body, and Austin suffered a slight burn on his hand, according to The Journal Gazette archives.
An NTSB investigation found that a lack of fuel caused the 2003 crash. The safety board’s report stated, “The pilot’s inaccurate preflight planning resulted in an inadequate fuel supply and subsequent fuel exhaustion.” The report also cited the low cloud ceiling, dark night conditions and the presence of the utility pole as contributing factors.
When the report was released in 2005, Hatch’s lawyer, Michael Loomis, told The Journal Gazette that he and his client disagreed with the investigation’s findings, saying that certain calculations of the safety board were flawed.
The cause of Friday’s crash, which the NTSB is investigating, was not immediately clear.
Typically, federal crash investigations take several months.
At the time of the crash Friday, there was moderate rain at the Charlevoix airport with winds out of the west at 10 mph, gusting up to 17 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Locker said.
Visibility was two miles, and the sky was overcast at 200 feet, he said.
More than a pilot, Hatch was an advocate for Smith Field and worked to keep it open when local officials had all but decided to shut the airport down because it was losing money.
Hatch owned Smith Field Air Service, a company that provides flight instruction and aircraft rentals at the airport.
Smith Field Air Service was closed Saturday. “None of them were in the mental state of mind to continue flying today,” airport operations coordinator Matt Okuly said of the company’s flight instructors.
News of the crash left most local pilots in no mood to fly, despite the good conditions.
“The weather like this – it’d be completely full,” Okuly said of the mild summer day.
But Saturday afternoon, the tarmac and runway were quiet.
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