U-M is mourning six members of a U-M Survival Flight crew whose plane crashed in Lake Michigan late Monday afternoon. The U.S. Coast Guard this morning (June 5) declared that all on board were lost. The team was heading back to the Willow Run Airport, carrying organs for transplant.
“Our hearts are broken by this devastating and irreplaceable loss for the University of Michigan community,” said President Mary Sue Coleman during an 11:30 press conference today. “Every day, the doctors, nurses and flight personnel of Survival Flight perform heroic work to save the lives of others, and that is how we will remember those who perished in this tragedy—as selfless heroes.
“There is no greater act than that of saving a life, and through our grief, we take comfort in knowing these six men died in the service of a fellow human being.”
Aboard the aircraft were:
• Dr. David Ashburn, a fellow (physician-in-training) in cardiothoracic surgery
• Richard Chenault II, a donation specialist with the U-M Transplant Program
• Dennis Hoyes, a Marlin Air pilot
• Rick Lapensee, a donation specialist with the U-M Transplant Program
• Bill Serra, a Marlin Air pilot
• Dr. Martinus (Martin) Spoor, a cardiac surgeon who had been on the faculty since 2003
Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president of medical affairs, said the U-M Health System and greater campus community are in mourning for the victims and their families.
“We are thousands of people who come together every day, saying to our patients: ‘We can treat your illness,’ ‘we will help you recover,’ ‘we will work to return you to the life you knew.’
“We are a place of strength and optimism, of determination and knowledge. The people who work here are people who believe—sometimes, against all odds—that they can help make a difference in a patient’s life. So it is particularly difficult when a place of hope, loses hope. But that is what happened this morning when we learned that our crew was not coming home to us.
“Despite valiant, tireless efforts on the part of the U.S. Coast Guard and many other emergency and rescue agencies—for which we are extraordinarily grateful—we now know that our team is lost.”
Soon after takeoff from General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee the pilot sent an emergency signal indicating he wanted to turn the Cessna jetaround. Within moments air traffic controllers report the plane disappeared from radar.
The Coast Guard began search and rescue efforts soon after the plane went down around 5 p.m. EDT Monday. Officials called off the search for the flight crew around 7 a.m. Tuesday after determining that the impact of the crash and the temperature of the water made it unlikely there were survivors. The National Transportation Safety Board is on the scene trying to determine the cause of the crash.
Coleman and Kelch went from the press conference to a gathering with faculty and staff organized as a time for the community to grieve and show support to one another.
Representatives from the UMHS Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and the Social Work and Pastoral Care offices were on hand at the gathering to help faculty and staff in need of support or grief counseling. EAP counselors also are available for UMHS individual and group/department consultation by calling 763-5409, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or paging 0721 from within the health system. Members of the campus community outside of UMHS can receive help from the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FASAP) at 936-8660. Students may contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 764-8312.
The UMHS Pastoral Care office has an interdenominational team of chaplains available 24 hours a day. The office is located in room 2A220 on Level 2 of University Hospital or call 936-4041.
UMHS has established a Web page, http://www.med.umich.edu/survival_flight/update/,for news updates and resources for the community. It also includes a place for visitors to the site to express condolences. A number of people have asked about memorials, according to the site, and UMHS is talking with the families about how to respond to those inquiries.
For the complete text of Coleman’s remarks and letter to the community, go to: http://www.umich.edu/pres/speeches/070605surv.html.
To read Kelch’s statement, see http://www.med.umich.edu/survival_flight/update/kelch.htm.