An 11-year-old girl who emerged as the sole survivor of a plane crash on a Michigan island that killed four people over the weekend said her father died protecting her as the aircraft went down.
The doomed Island Airways passenger flight took off from Beaver Island Airport in Charlevoix at 1.32pm on Saturday with five people on board and crashed just 15 minutes later while approaching Welke Airport west of Mackinaw City.
Lt. William Church, of the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office identified three of the deceased as Kate Leese and Adam Kendall, of Beaver Island, and Mike Perdue, of Gaylord.
Authorities have not released the name of the pilot who was also killed. Perdue’s 11-year-old daughter, Laney, was seriously injured in the crash and remained hospitalized in stable condition on Sunday.
Laney’s mother, Christina Perdue, said in a statement to ABC News that her daughter’s last memory aboard the plane was of her father shielding her from impact.
Laney Perdue, 11 (left and right), emerged as the sole survivor of Saturday’s plane crash in Michigan, which killed four people, among them her father, Mike Perdue (left)
Kate Leese (left) and Adam Kendall (right) were killed in the crash on Beaver Island
‘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 said. ‘Our prayers are also with our island community and the other souls lost in the accident.’
Christina has launched a CaringBridge page to update well-wishers about her daughter’s progress. According to the description, Laney remained alert during her rescue and was able to give first responders her mother’s name and phone number.
‘She is being a trooper and so strong,’ the page reads. ‘There are many broken bones and injuries but most of them are ones that are going to heal on their own, another miracle!.’
According to an entry from Sunday, the 11-year-old underwent surgery to have a pin inserted into her left foot and to wire her jaw ‘to allow for healing and alignment.’
Meanwhile, a loved has has started a GoFundMe campaign to help the Perdue family, which has drawn more than $53,000 in donations as of Monday.
Mike Perdue worked as a real estate agent in Gaylord, Michigan, where he lived with his wife, their two daughters and two young sons.
Christina Perdue (far right) said her daughter Laney’s final memory before impact was of her father (far left) protecting her
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 just 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.
‘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 in the interview. ‘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
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
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 Lease and Kendal 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 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 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.