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Crash Survivor Plans To Play For Michigan In 2013

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ANN ARBOR (WWJ/AP) - An Indiana high school basketball standout who survived a Michigan plane crash that killed his father and stepmother says he plans to play college basketball next year.

Austin Hatch of Fort Wayne had made a verbal commitment to play basketball at the University of Michigan before the June 2011 crash near the Charlevoix airport. He told the Detroit Free Press that he’ll be on the court with the Wolverines in 2013.

Hatch says he’ll use a scholarship to live the life he and his father always had imagined.

“The most difficult thing is just missing my biological family, because I’m the only one left,” he said. “I wish there was an instructional manual in how to deal with this kind of loss.”

Hatch was 16-years-old when he suffered a serious head injury, punctured lung and rib injuries in the crash. His father was flying when the plane struck a garage in a neighborhood near the Charlevoix Municipal Airport. The family had been on their way to their summer home on Walloon Lake in Michigan’s northwestern Lower Peninsula..

Following the crash, Hatch was in a medically induced coma for weeks before returning to Fort Wayne, where he was a standout basketball player at Canterbury High School. He did not play basketball for Canterbury this past season.

“At first I couldn’t remember, if you asked me then who are you talking to, I’d say I really don’t know,” said Hatch. “I just became more aware of things over time. My brain got to the point where it had developed back to almost as sharp as it was. Recovering from a brain injury takes a lot of time.”

Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report that the crash that killed Hatch’s father, Stephen, and his stepmother, Kim, occurred after the single-engine plane stalled because of inadequate air speed. The report said Stephen Hatch failed to follow the proper protocol.

After the aircraft missed its instrument landing approach at the Charlevoix Municipal Airport, he turned around and attempted a second landing on the runway from the opposite direction before crashing into a garage in a neighborhood near the airport, according to witness statements collected by the NTSB.

It was the second plane crash that Hatch survived. He and his father lived through a 2003 crash that killed Hatch’s mother and two siblings. His father was flying then, too. A 2005 federal report found inaccurate preflight planning resulted in the plane not having enough fuel.

Hatch has yet to be cleared to play and said he didn’t care, trusting his doctors will tell him when it’s appropriate.

“I’m still going on a full basketball scholarship. I’ll still be on the team and all of that and go to practice and everything. But I just don’t know if I’ll be quite as good as I was before. But I still have over a year until then, so a lot can happen,” he said.

The 6-foot-6 high school junior said while some days are harder than others, he has to keep moving forward, no matter what.

“Just because tragic stuff happened to me, my life’s not over. I’ve got all kinds of positive things working in my favor. I’m going to Michigan, I’ve got a great family, great parents, and I get to go to a great school. If you just focus on the negative things, you shouldn’t let that outweigh the positive things in your life,” said Hatch.

TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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