Pilot in Beaver Island crash joined Island Airways in April
Authorities on Tuesday confirmed the identity of the final victim of a Saturday plane crash in northern Michigan that claimed four lives and seriously injured a child, but the cause remains unknown.
William Julian, 55, was a school teacher in Traverse City and a part-time pilot who joined Island Airways in April, according to Charlevoix County Sheriff Charles Vondra.
"Bill was an avid aviator and youth advocate," according to a description for an online fundraiser set up for Julian's widow, Katie, and daughter, Betsy, which has raised around $9,000. "Our community has lost an invaluable asset."
Julian flew the Charlevoix-Beaver Island flight that crashed at its destination, killing him, Kate Leese and Adam Kendall of Beaver Island, and Mike Perdue of Gaylord.
Perdue's 11-year-old daughter, Laney, sustained serious injuries and is the sole survivor of the crash.
Nothing seemed amiss with the 15-minute trip until at least "a couple of minutes" before landing, according to Vondra.
"Ten miles out of the island, the pilot radioed in as is standard and everything was status quo, nothing bad reported," said the sheriff. "Then around (Little Sand Bay Nature Preserve) near the island, which is a couple minutes out, he had more radio contact with some folks and everything was normal.
"Between then and the crash, obviously something happened and I'm not sure what that is yet."
Representatives of Island Airways, which operates the route on a daily basis, declined a request for comment on Tuesday.
Following the crash, Julian and Laney were transported to Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, according to Brian McCrum, a public affairs specialist with the Coast Guard.
The three other victims were pronounced dead at the scene. Laney was transferred to the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids to receive treatment.
"She has a long road ahead of her," Laney's mother, Christie Perdue, told Good Morning America on Tuesday. "She has five broken bones ... all over in random places, but she is amazing and she's inspiring us all."
Perdue said her daughter's last memory before the crash was of her father holding her, and added that Laney only had injuries on one side of her body.
"Dad just grabbed her and held her really, really tight," Perdue said. "In my heart, I know that he protected her."
"Prayers for Perdue," a fundraiser to help cover Laney's treatment costs, was set up by family friend Dana Bensinger. It has raised more than $96,000 in two days from anonymous donors, community members and acquaintances.
"We will fly again, and we will be there, and we will be home again," Perdue told Good Morning America on Tuesday. "He would want us all to share his memory but make sure his babies were good."
The late Perdue grew up in northern Michigan and was an active member of his community, according to his company profile. He began his career in real estate in 2012 and was a board member of the Otsego County Economic Alliance, vice president of Gaylord Little League, and served on the St. Mary Athletic Board.
"He was always a gentleman," said Sheri Richards, a realtor who regularly worked with Perdue. "And he was always a positive, wonderful person."
Leese, 35, a biochemist who grew up in Charlevoix, and Kendall, 37, an attorney and Jackson native, recently moved to Beaver Island to plant a vineyard and open a winery after traveling the country for years.
Their death reverberated across their new home.
“I didn’t realize how many people they touched, whether they knew them for five minutes or five months. They were beautiful, vibrant people,” said Miranda Roen, a photographer who moved to Beaver Island with her husband, Jake Abhau, a year ago in December.
“Every single time you walked in a building here — a grocery store or a bar or whatever — they’d have a huge smile and they’d come over and say hello," Roen said. "They always made time for other people.”
Writer Greg Tasker contributed