An 11-year-old girl from Gaylord, Michigan, survived a plane crash that killed four people — all thanks to her father’s life-saving hug.
On November 13, 2021, Lanny Purdue prepares to leave for Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan to see a family friend with her father, Mike, 43.
The girl was “so excited” about the trip because the island was her favorite place in the world. Her father, who planned to fish with family and friends when they got there, felt the same enthusiasm for their short vacation.
The father and daughter said goodbye to the rest of the family before boarding the 20-minute plane ride.
Kristi, Lani’s mother, told People about the last time she saw her husband: “He gave me this huge hug, left for a minute and then pressed me hard again.” “Mike is known for cuddling with bears.”
On the passenger plane, Lani remembers looking “in one of those little windows and seeing the grass and feeling my dad’s arm around me.”
However, things took a turn for the worse when the plane was about to land.
“I had this feeling in my stomach as if the plane had just gone down, and my dad was raising his feet as if he was preparing for something,” recalls the fifth grader.
Their plane crashed on the island at 1:47 p.m., killing Mike and pilot William Julian, 55, and married passengers Adam Kendall, 37, and Kate Lees, 35.
Miraculously, Lani had only 11 broken bones – most of which would heal on their own – and injuries to her lip and mouth.
“The last thing I remember is my dad giving me the tightest hug ever,” she said. “I’m alive because of him.”
The first responders who retrieved her from the wreck said the same thing, noting Mike’s last act of love for Lani’s survival. His hug protected her from the impact of the accident and kept her alive.
When Kristi learned of the accident and rushed to see her husband and daughter, she didn’t know if Lani had survived the helicopter ambulance ride from the island. But after arriving at the hospital, I was relieved to see her alive and breathing.
“I grabbed her hand and squeezed mine,” Kristi recalls, and soon realized that her daughter wasn’t aware that her dad didn’t work out.
Laney and Mike, a realtor, were alive when the responders arrived. However, the latter died of his injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Lani said, “I was like, Mom, where’s Dad?” “I was panicking because I didn’t know there was a crash. It was scary.”
Christie told her the devastating truth after she was transferred that evening to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
“I wanted to make sure he’s okay,” Laney recalls, “I kind of knew he was dead, but I wasn’t sure.” “I just broke down crying.”
Despite her grief and injuries, Lani struggled to recover so she could honor her father by walking at his funeral. After having surgeries on her jaw and foot, she went from being in a wheelchair to using crutches. And on December 11, she walked with them behind her father’s coffin.
Their community has also provided support by creating a GoFundMe page to help the family with their growing expenses.
Kristi, Lani, her siblings, Addie, 8, and twin brothers Henrik and Beau, 2, will always remember Mike as the “best dad girl.” He loved celebrating the “little moments in life” with his family, and this is something they will cherish forever.
“Every day he’d get up and say, ‘You guys are beautiful.’ He said to Laney. ‘It was amazing.'”
Now, the family of five makes sure to remember and honor Mike every day by writing down their memories of him in a book kept on the kitchen table.
They are also considering when they will return to Beaver Island.
“Years ago, he said to me, ‘Promise me if something happens to me, you’ll keep coming to the island with the kids,’” said Christie. “It is the greatest tragedy and the greatest joy. We lost Mike, but we kept Laney.”
Kristi’s mother, father, sister, and brother-in-law have since moved in to help them.
“I’m so sad, but I know my dad wants us to be okay. He wants us to live,” Lani said.
What Mike did for his daughter is a perfect example of a father’s love. He is a real hero.
Hear Lanny and Kristi talk about the details of the tragic plane crash.
You can help the Perdue family by donating to GoFundMe.