Mother of 11-year-old sole survivor of Michigan plane crash reveals girl’s first words in hospital

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The mother of an 11-year-old girl who emerged as the sole survivor of a plane crash on a Michigan island that killed four people, including her father, says she feared the worst when she ran into the hospital to see her daughter and was relieved when the child greeted her. 

Christine Perdue spoke out for the first time since Saturday’s crash on Beaver Island, revealing to Good Morning America on Tuesday her daughter Laney’s first words to her after the crash. 

Christie said that when she first learned of the crash, she did not know whether her daughter had suffered burns, or a head injury, or whether she would be able to walk again. 

‘And she just said, “Hi, mom,”‘ Christie recalled with a smile, ‘and so I just knew at that moment that that part was going to be OK.’  

Christie also said she believes her husband saved their daughter’s life by wrapping her in a bear hug. 

According to the mom, Laney’s final memory before impact was of her father, Mike Perdue, holding her. 

‘Laney told me in the hospital that her last memory is that dad just grabbed her and held her really, really tight,’ Christie said while standing outside Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, where her daughter is being treated. ‘In my heart I know it protected her.’ 

The mother of four revealed that Laney suffered five broken bones, but all of the fractures were on one side of her body, suggesting that her other side was spared thanks to her father’s protective stance. 

‘I believe that would make sense to me that if her injuries were on one side, then her other side was with her dad and he was holding her,’ Christie said through tears. 

Christie Perdue says she believes her husband, Mike, saved their daughter by wrapping her in a bear hug when the plane they were in crashed in Michigan, killing him and three others

Christie Perdue says she believes her husband, Mike, saved their daughter by wrapping her in a bear hug when the plane they were in crashed in Michigan, killing him and three others  

Christie said her 11-year-old daughter, Laney, told her that her final memory before impact is that of her dad grabbing her and holding her 'really, really tight'

Mike Perdue did not survive the crash

Christie said her 11-year-old daughter, Laney, told her that her final memory before impact is that of her dad grabbing her and holding her ‘really, really tight’

The crash claimed the lives of four of the five people who were aboard the Island Airways flight from Charlevoix Municipal Airport to the nearby Welke Airport. The victims have been identified by the authorities as pilot William Julian, of Traverse City, and passengers Mike Perdue, of Gaylord, Kate Leese and Adam Kendall, of Beaver Island.

Laney survived and was airlifted to the hospital in Grand Rapids.

The mother said Laney still has ‘a long road ahead of her.’ 

Christie added: ‘she is amazing and she is inspiring us all.’ 

According to the latest updates on the site CaringBridge, where family having been sharing news of Laney’s progress, the 11-year-old underwent multiple surgeries, was breathing on her own, adjusting to eating and drinking again, and was feeling better.

On Monday, Laney started inpatient physical therapy and was able to briefly stand up. 

The doomed passenger flight took off at 1.32pm on Saturday with five people on board and crashed just 15 minutes later while approaching Welke Airport west of Mackinaw City.  

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said the investigation into the cause of the crash was still in its early stages, but John Brannen, Senior Air Safety Investigator with the federal agency, told 9 & 10 News that they were looking into whether high winds played a role in the tragedy. 

Brannen said the investigation also will examine how much the plane weighed at the time of the crash. 

‘One of the things that we do look at and one of the things we’re doing today is, we took all the baggage from the airplane, we’re weighing all the baggage,’ said  the NTSB official. ‘Weight and balance is an important factor in aircraft so we’re looking at their load manifest to see if it matches up with what we actually weighed.’ 

Laney Perdue, 11 , emerged as the sole survivor of Saturday's plane crash in Michigan

Laney Perdue, 11 , emerged as the sole survivor of Saturday’s plane crash in Michigan

Laney is recovering at a Michigan hospital, where she was in stable condition on Tuesday

Laney is recovering at a Michigan hospital, where she was in stable condition on Tuesday

Christie Perdue (far right) is pictured with her late husband, their two daughters and twin sons

Christie Perdue (far right) is pictured with her late husband, their two daughters and twin sons

Crash victim Mike Perdue worked as a real estate agent in Gaylord, Michigan, where he lived with his wife, their two daughters and twin sons. 

‘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,’ Christie Perdue previously said in a statement. ‘Our prayers are also with our island community and the other souls lost in the accident.’ 

Meanwhile, a loved one has has started a GoFundMe campaign to help the Perdue family financially, which has drawn more than $84,000 in donations as of Tuesday.

William Julian, 55, was behind the controls of the plane. He is survived by his wife and daughter. According to a report by 9&10 News, Julian had started working for Island Airways seven months ago. 

The crash also took the lives of Leese, 35, and Kendall, 37, who posted a video of a flight they took over Beaver Island just days before the fatal accident. The couple’s two dogs, who were aboard the plane on Saturday, also died.   

Leese, a biochemist, and Kendall, an attorney, had only recently settled in Beaver Island after spending years traveling. They had been planning to open Antho Vineyards, a winery and tasting room, on the island in Lake Michigan.

Kate Leese (left) and Adam Kendall (right) were killed in the crash on Beaver Island

Kate Leese (left) and Adam Kendall (right) were killed in the crash on Beaver Island 

Pilot William Julian (right) was killed in the crash. He is pictured with his daughter

Pilot William Julian (right) was killed in the crash. He is pictured with his daughter 

The wreck of the twin-engine Britten-Norman plane is pictured at Welke Airport on Beaver Island, Michigan, on Saturday

The wreck of the twin-engine Britten-Norman plane is pictured at Welke Airport on Beaver Island, Michigan, on Saturday 

A person is seen being loaded into the back of an ambulance following the crash

A person is seen being loaded into the back of an ambulance following the crash 

The map shows the airport where the flight had taken off and where crashed 15 minutes later

‘It feels like a place somewhere along the road where you could stop and have a glass of wine with new friends,’ Leese told The Detroit News for a story published a week before the crash. ‘Our goal is to have that kind of place that brings people together.’

The pair also were in the process of renovating a century-old farmhouse on the island, which they had decided to make their new home because of its peaceful atmosphere. 

‘Almost immediately after we pulled into the marina here, we knew this was the level of quiet we were looking for,’ Kendall told the newspaper. ‘At night, there’s almost complete silence here. …It’s the kind of place we had been looking for as our next spot.’ 

They referred to themselves on social media as ‘travelers-turned-farmers,’ and said they had lived in ‘200+ places in an Airstream and [an] old boat since 2016.’ 

On Thursday, they posted a video showing the wheels of a flight they were taking hovering several miles above the Beaver Island shoreline, with the caption: ‘Flying (again!) to take the big dog back to his third vet appointment. Crossing all the fingers and toes for better news.’

In another post, on October 29, the couple shared another image of a flight they took over the island, showing trees of every color surrounding one road leading to the beach. 

It read: ‘That little bitty road leads to one of our favorite campgrounds, and now somehow we live on the other side of the epic view. Life is wild.’

Leese and Kendall posted a 'family photo' outside their trailer on Friday

Leese and Kendall posted a ‘family photo’ outside their trailer on Friday

They also used their Instagram to share photos of their dogs, Frank and Barker, who were also killed in the fatal crash on Saturday

They also used their Instagram to share photos of their dogs, Frank and Barker, who were also killed in the fatal crash on Saturday

Just days before the fatal crash, the couple posted a video of a flight they took over the island

Just days before the fatal crash, the couple posted a video of a flight they took over the island

They used their shared Instagram page,’lifewithoutwaiting,’ to post pictures of their cross-country adventures and share photos of their dogs, Frank and Barker.

One posted on Friday showed the two dogs laying on top of a bed in the back of an ambulance they converted into a living space, and another posted that same day featured Leese and Kendall standing outside a trailer with their two dogs, which they called a ‘family photo.’

‘We’ve owned this airstream going on six years and this is our very first family photo in the doorway,’ the caption read. ‘Thanks @mmivphoto for these impromptu happy shots. I always want to remember us like this.’ 

The Beaver Island Fire Department released a picture of the scene (above) after the plane crashed on its way into Welke Airport

The Beaver Island Fire Department released a picture of the scene (above) after the plane crashed on its way into Welke Airport

The twin-engine Britten-Norman plane with a pilot and four passenger on board was flying from Charlevoix on Michigan’s lower peninsula, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

The aircraft crashed at Welke Airport, located 35 miles away, as it was about to land.   

A Coast Guard helicopter was conducting training when they received the emergency alarm of the accident. They could reportedly see debris on the island and local medical teams already responding.

The helicopter airlifted two people to the hospital – Mike and Laney Perdue. 

The Coast Guard said that officers were performing chest compressions on the 11-year-old girl while she was being airlifted to a hospital in Petoskey.

Her father initially survived but succumbed to his injuries en route to the hospital. 

Laney was subsequently transferred to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids for further treatment.  

The cause of the crash has yet to be determined and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

According to Island Airways, this is the first crash the airline has ever had. 

Another airline operating out of Beaver Island experienced a fatal crash on a foggy day in February 2001 when a pilot and passenger were killed when the plane landed in a thicket of trees nearly two miles short of the airport runway.

A mother and her three children survived and waited in the woods to be rescued, withstanding winter temperatures for more than 15 hours, according to the News-Review.  



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