Michigan basketball team plane slides off runway; no injuries

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Washington, D.C. — The Michigan men’s basketball team faced a harrowing ordeal Wednesday afternoon after its charter flight was involved in an accident at Willow Run Airport. No serious injuries were reported.

Michigan was traveling to Washington, D.C., where the No. 8 seed Wolverines are set to face ninth-seeded Illinois in the Big Ten tournament at noon Thursday at the Verizon Center. The game will still be played as scheduled.

According to a statement from the program, the accident was due to high winds.

“After attempting to take off in high winds, takeoff was aborted and, after strong braking, the plane slide (sic) off runway,” the statement said. “The plane sustained extensive damage but everyone on board was safely evacuated and is safe.”

In a five-second video posted on Twitter by Michigan student manager Tyler Davis, the plane appeared to slide through a fence and across an access road.

“It puts so much in perspective right now,” Michigan coach John Beilein told WXYZ-TV's Dave LewAllen. “Everybody is safe. We got a few people banged up a little bit. A few cuts, a few bruises but other than that, everybody is healthy and it could’ve been much worse.

“The way the flight attendants, the pilots, everybody, the student-athletes, the staff conduct themselves was incredible. We were off that plane going down those chutes, going out up on the wings getting out there. In a minute, it seemed like everybody got off that plane. Everybody was really disciplined and a lot of poise.”

Michigan announced late Wednesday night that the team will meet in Ann Arbor at 6 a.m. on Thursday, fly out from Detroit Metro Airport at 7:30 a.m., land in D.C. at 8:45 a.m. and take a bus directly to the Verizon Center for the noon tip-off.

"We have worked quickly to arrange alternative travel arrangements for the Michigan travel party," athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement. "We have been in constant contact with the Big Ten Conference and appreciate their support and willingness to work with us as we sorted through all of the issues.

"We appreciate all the support and well wishes from our Michigan family as well as those who have reached out with their thoughts and support."

According to a statement from the Wayne County Airport Authority, Michigan’s charter flight was operated by Ameristar Charters and was carrying 109 passengers and seven crew members.

In addition to the Michigan men’s basketball team, cheerleaders, band members and members of the staff’s families were also on board.

"I just thank the good Lord everybody is OK,” ESPN analyst Dan Dakich, father of Michigan senior guard Andrew Dakich, said while commentating Wednesday's Big Ten tournament first-round game between Penn State and Nebraska.

“This could have been so much worse, and you know what, when I see my son tomorrow, I don't care what anybody says, I'm gonna give him a big ol' hug and kiss when I get a chance to do that.”

Washtenaw County, where Willow Run Airport is located, was under a high wind advisory from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday with wind speeds reaching upwards of 60 mph.

According to ABC News, the accident is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration, which means none of the team's gear or luggage can be taken off the plane.

It’s not the first time weather has altered Michigan's travel plans this season. Storms delayed the team from flying in the night before its 7 p.m. game at Northwestern on March 1 to the morning of and icy conditions in Madison, Wisc., forced a similar flight change for its 9 p.m. game at Wisconsin on Jan. 17.