Eleven-year-old girl survives Michigan plane crash that killed her father, three others


(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) — An 11-year-old sole survivor of a commuter plane crash on a Lake Michigan island that killed her father and three others remembers her dad protecting her as the aircraft crash-landed, her mother said on Sunday.

“It’s her last memory before the crash,” Christina Perdue said in a statement of her daughter, Laney, who was in stable condition Sunday afternoon at a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The crash on Saturday at the Welke Airport on Beaver Island in the far northern part of Lake Michigan killed everyone else aboard the twin-engine Britton-Norman BN-2 aircraft, including Perdue’s husband, Mike, a realtor from Gaylord, Michigan.

“We are heartbroken with the loss of my husband, a father, brother, son and friend. He gave the best bear hugs, and I believe he grabbed our daughter and protected her,” Christina Perdue said of what her daughter recalls of the crash. “Our prayers are also with our island community and the other souls lost in the accident.”

The crash occurred around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Welke Airport on Beaver Island just below Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Lt. William Church of the Charlevoix County, Michigan, Sheriff’s Office told ABC News on Sunday.

The Island Airways aircraft was landing at the airport when the crash occurred after departing from Charlevoix, Michigan, about 32 miles away, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.

A helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Great Lakes was training in the area at the time and responded to an emergency call from the island. It then flew the critically injured child and a male adult, who initially survived the crash, to McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey, Coast Guard officials said.

The sheriff’s office said the male victim was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The Coast Guard Great Lakes said in a tweet that the helicopter crew performed “chest compressions” on the girl en route to the hospital.

Laney Perdue was later transferred to a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids.

Church also identified a couple killed in the incident as Kate Leese and Adam Kendall.

Leese, 35, and Kendall, 37, were featured in a Detroit News article just seven days ago talking about a vineyard of red and white grapes they were growing since recently moving to Beaver Island and their dreams to open a winery and tasting room someday.

The couple, who was also restoring a turn-of-the-century farmhouse on the island, told the newspaper they had found the island an idyllic place to settle after living a nomadic lifestyle for the past three years, living out of a renovated Airstream while traveling around the country.

“Almost immediately after we pulled into the marina here, we knew this was the level of quiet we were looking for,” Kendall, an attorney, told the newspaper. “At night, there’s almost complete silence here. There’s no light pollution. You can hear every car (if one goes by). It’s the kind of place we had been looking for as our next spot.”

The name of the pilot who died was being withheld by the sheriff’s office, pending notification of relatives, Church said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board.

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