DETROIT — An Indiana high school basketball standout who survived a plane crash that killed his father and stepmother is in a drug-induced coma as doctors monitor the badly injured 16-year-old’s brain swelling, his father’s business partner said Sunday.
Austin Hatch suffered brain bruising and swelling and deep facial cuts in Friday’s crash that killed his father, Stephen Hatch, and stepmother, Kim, but has shown some hopeful signs at a northern Michigan hospital, said Dr. G. David Bojrab.
Friday’s crash was the second one Austin has survived. A 2003 crash killed his mother and two siblings. His father was piloting both times. Austin, a high school junior from Fort Wayne, Ind., recently accepted a scholarship to attend and play basketball for the University of Michigan after graduation.
Bojrab said Austin’s brain swelling was going down and he had been moving all four limbs when doctors reduced the coma-inducing drugs they placed him on after Friday’s crash.
“He has bruising to the brain but there’s no structural damage as far as they can tell right now, so they’re hoping that that’s a good sign and he’ll have a better recovery or a full recovery,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the hospital in Traverse City, Mich., said the teen remained in critical condition Sunday.
A relative, Jason Bowersock of Fort Wayne, said Sunday evening that doctors planned to begin taking Austin off of the coma-inducing drugs on Monday afternoon, while closely monitoring his neurological signs as he regains consciousness.
“Everyone at this point remains very hopeful. All the doctors have been very positive and hopeful given his age and strength. All his other signs are great,” he said.
Bowersock, who is married to the eldest of Kim Hatch’s three children, Maria, said Stephen Hatch’s parents and siblings and other relatives will be staying close to Austin’s bedside in the coming days.
While both of Austin’s parents, along with his stepmother, are now deceased, he said it’s too early for relatives to speculate on the teen’s future, including where he will live. But he said that’s been on their minds.
“No one has even breathed a word of discussing where Austin will reside. He’s a very mature, bright 16-year-old kid and he has a great future ahead of him. And he’ll certainly have some thoughts on that, too,” Bowersock said. “We’ve just focused right now on Austin getting well.”
Austin’s basketball coach at Canterbury School said everyone at the private school in Fort Wayne, which has about 320 students, was stunned by the news of the deadly crash and praying that Austin survives. He said it’s “unbelievable” the youngster is now the only survivor of his immediate family, aside from his three step-siblings.
“They’re all gone,” Kline said. “He’s the only one left. What’s the chance of that happening? A million to one, if that. It’s just unbelievable.”
Bojrab, who partnered with Stephen Hatch to open a pain-management clinic in Fort Wayne, said the Hatches were flying to their summer home on Walloon Lake in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula when his single-engine plane flew into a garage near the Charlevoix Municipal Airport. It was the same lake home Stephen Hatch and the family were returning from nearly eight years ago when they crashed in Indiana.
Family friends who live on that same Michigan lake have been with Austin since shortly after the crash and his maternal grandparents have been with him since Saturday, Bojrab said. Hatch’s paternal grandparents were on vacation in Spain celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with Stephen Hatch’s brother and sister and their families, but they arrived back in the U.S. on Sunday, he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board had investigators at the crash site Saturday. NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said he expected a preliminary report within 10 days and a final report determining a cause within 18 months.
Holloway said Sunday the wreckage was being moved to a hangar at the airport and the lead investigator expected to complete the onsite investigation within a few days. There was no immediate indication of what caused the crash, Holloway said.
Kline said Austin, who is 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, is a very strong physically and he hopes that his being in good condition helps him survive.
“He’s just a strong guy, a strong kid. That’s what saving him right now,” he said.
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