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Published: Wednesday, 5/2/2012

Recruit decides to play for UM despite tragic losses

Austin Hatch. Austin Hatch.
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ANN ARBOR — An Indiana high school basketball standout who survived a plane crash in Michigan last year that killed his father and stepmother, after surviving a 2003 crash that killed his mother, plans to play college basketball next year.

Austin Hatch of Fort Wayne made a verbal commitment to play basketball at the University of Michigan before the June crash near the Charlevoix 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."

Hatch, who was 16 at the time of the 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 and said he didn't care, trusting his doctors will tell him when it's appropriate. He said he thinks no one else 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.

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.

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 was a standout basketball player at Canterbury High School in Fort Wayne. He didn't play basketball for Canterbury this past season.

Austin Hatch had a serious head injury from last year's crash.

He said the recovery has been difficult.

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