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Beaver Island community looks for strength after plane crash kills four

Kevin Boyle
A fire burns inside a sculpture on Beaver Island memorializing the four people who died in a plane crash on the Northern Michigan island Saturday.

People on Beaver Island in Northern Michigan have come together to find strength in community after a plane crash there killed four people on Saturday.

Local residents lit a fire Sunday at a sculpture that serves as a landmark and meeting point for the island community, said Kevin Boyle, a member of the boards of several community organizations on the island. A candlelight vigil was planned at the sculpture Monday night.

The plane went down as it approached Beaver Island’s Welke Airport at the end of a scheduled afternoon flight from Charlevoix, authorities said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it sent two investigators to the crash site to probe what caused the plane to go down.

The crash killed the pilot, identified by the Charlevoix County sheriff Monday as Wiliam Julian, as well as Kate Leese and Adam Kendall, a couple who was moving to the island and hoping to start a vineyard, and Mike Perdue, a real estate agent from Gaylord.

Perdue’s daughter, 11-year-old Laney Perdue, was the only survivor of the crash.

Johan Ramakers, who manages the Beaver Island Lodge about two miles from the airport where the plane went down, said Monday that people on the island were hugging each other on the streets, in the grocery store and wherever they saw each other.

“We all know each other,” he said. “We are hurting. We are deeply hurting.”

“A lot of dreams went up in flames there,” said Ramakers.

He said people were finding solace in Laney’s survival.

“We’re all trying to find our way in it. The little girl seems to be doing okay. That is of course a relief already.”

A Coast Guard helicopter airlifted Laney from the crash site Saturday afternoon. Emergency responders were giving her chest compressions as they flew her out, the Coast Guard said.

Laney was taken first to the McLaren Northern Michigan hospital in Petoskey and then transferred to DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, where she was in stable condition Monday afternoon, a DeVos spokesperson said.

Perdue family friend Dana Bensinger said Laney remembers her father protecting her as the flight got rough.

“Laney is a trooper. She’s a miracle,” Bensinger said. “She’s banged up, a lot of broken bones, but she’s in a great place. DeVos has taken good care of her.”

Bensinger set up a GoFundMe page for the family and said donations were coming in from across the U.S. where the Perdues have friends.

“There’s a lot of nooks and crannies all over this country that are hurting,” she said. “We just keep talking about ‘there’s so many tears because there was so much love.’”

Mike grew up spending summers on Beaver Island, said Bensinger.

“He absolutely loved the island. The only thing above his love for the island was his love for his family.”