ANN ARBOR, Mich. — An Indiana high school basketball standout who survived a Michigan plane crash last year that killed his father and stepmother — this after surviving a plane crash eight years earlier that killed his mother — plans to play college basketball next year.
Austin Hatch of Fort Wayne, Ind., made a verbal commitment to play at Michigan before the June crash near the Charlevoix, Mich., airport. He told the Detroit Free Press in an interview published Tuesday that he'll be on the court with the Wolverines in 2013.
"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."
The 6-foot-6 Hatch, 16 at the time of the June crash, said he'll use a scholarship to live the life he and his father always had imagined. He has yet to be cleared to play but said he didn't care, trusting his doctors will tell him when it's appropriate. He said he thinks no one can relate to his situation.
"No one that I know of," he said. "If there is someone, I haven't met them yet."
Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report that the crash that killed Dr. Stephen Hatch and his wife, Kim, occurred after the single-engine plane stalled because of inadequate air speed.
Stephen Hatch, who was an anesthesiologist and partner at Pain Management Associates, also was piloting a similar plane in September 2003 that crashed in Indiana. He saved Austin after that crash, but his other children — Lindsay, 11, and Ian, 5 — died along with his first wife, Julie, 38.
Following last year's crash en route to a summer home near Boyne Falls in northern Michigan, Austin Hatch was in a medically induced coma for weeks before returning to Fort Wayne. He had a severe brain injury, a punctured lung and rib injuries.
He was a standout player at Canterbury High in Fort Wayne but didn't play this past season. He said the recovery has been difficult.
"My dad's dad, my grandpa Jim Hatch, he's as close a thing to my dad as there is," Hatch said. "So he's been very instrumental in helping me with the recovery process."
Considering how far Hatch has come, much of which he attributes to a passionate Christian faith, the next steps should be easier than the last.
"Some days are more difficult than others, as weird as that sounds," Hatch told the Free Press. "Some days things just kind of hit me. I don't know why, they just do. It's kind of tough because I'm the only one left out of my immediate family.
"But just because tragic stuff happened to me, my life's not over. I've got all kinds of positive things working in my favor. … If you just focus on the negative things, you shouldn't let that outweigh the positive things in your life."