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Teenage basketball star survives 2nd plane crash

/ 10:54 AM June 26, 2011

DETROIT – A 16-year-old high school basketball player with the promise of playing at the University of Michigan is fighting for his life after surviving the second plane crash of his young life.

Austin Hatch, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, was in critical condition Saturday in a northern Michigan hospital after the Friday evening crash that killed his father, Dr. Stephen Hatch, and his stepmother, Kim.

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Austin and his pilot father had survived a 2003 crash that killed Austin’s mother and two siblings.

Austin had committed earlier this month to play basketball at Michigan, where his father and mother went to school.

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Dan Kline, the basketball coach at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, told The Associated Press that the next 24 to 48 hours are going to be critical. He said Austin is physically and mentally strong — someone “who can handle things.”

“He’s a very mature young man,” he said. “You’d never know he was 16 years old.”

Austin told the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne for a story published last week that he talked to Michigan coach John Beilein by phone and accepted a scholarship to enroll in 2013.

“It was a very special moment for me,” he told the newspaper. “There was no reason to wait. There’s nothing I don’t like about their program, and I couldn’t turn it down.”

Beilein said in a statement that the university was saddened to hear about the tragedy. “Austin needs as much support right now as possible and I know he will be in the thoughts and prayers of the Michigan family during this difficult time,” he said.

Dr. G. David Bojrab, a colleague and close friend of Austin’s father, said the Hatches were flying to their summer home on a lake in northwestern Michigan, where Stephen Hatch and his brothers all owned property, when his single-engine plane flew into a garage near an airport in the city of Charlevoix.

It was the same home Stephen Hatch and the family were returning from nearly eight years ago when they crashed in Indiana.

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A 2005 federal report on the September 2003 crash found inaccurate preflight planning resulted in the plane not having enough fuel. The National Transportation Safety Board determined a utility pole the airplane hit during its forced landing, a low ceiling and dark conditions also contributed to the crash.

Hatch saved Austin, but his other children — Lindsay, 11, and Ian, 5 — died along with his wife, Julie, 38.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said investigators were on the scene of Friday’s crash and would be examining the aircraft, interviewing witnesses and requesting air traffic control communications and radar data. He expected a preliminary report within 10 days and a final report determining a cause within 18 months.

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TAGS: Basketball, Plane crash, Sports
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