Plane Crash on Beaver Island

Last night, February 8th, an 18 passenger plane carrying 6 people, including a pilot and co-pilot,  headed to Beaver Island from Chicago went missing.  It was seen about 7:30 p.m.  passing over the township airport headed west.  It is common practice for pilots unfamiliar with an airport to do a couple passes.  Persons waiting for the plane saw it pass overhead at about 500 feet but were unable to tell if it turned north or south due to the visibility.

The United States Coast Guard sent up a helicopter which searched over the waters between High and Beaver.  The Coast Guard cutter Acacia also joined the search.  Deputy Mike Russell and volunteers attempted a ground search but due to darkness and bad weather all searching was called off until first light today.

This morning the Beaver Island Fire Department and Beaver Island EMS have joined together to form a ground search while the Coast Guard will continue the air and water search.

I will be updating through-out the day as more information becomes available.  PLEASE do NOT call the sheriff's department or other organizations for information.  They need to keep the lines open for emergency purposes.  9 and 10 News from Traverse City is also covering this on-going story so you can check their website or check the television.  I understand that the story has been carried on several other stations including those in southern Michigan and the Chicago area.  Check back later today for any updates.

UPDATE AS OF 9:25 a.m. The Coast Guard has three ships, the Acacia, Mackinaw, and the Biscayne Bay,  involved in the search for the missing plane which is a twin engine turbo-prop.  It is a chartered plane which took off from Chicago's Midway Airport last night.  The plane is believed to be carrying four members of the same family onboard.  A force of over 30 volunteers are combing the west side of the island on snowmobiles.  

UPDATE AS OF 10:10 a.m. Coast Guard has just announced that they have two helicopters now in the air along with a C-130 plane with another helicopter to take off shortly.  Besides the pilot and co-pilot, the passengers were a mother and her three children ages 13, 9, and 5.  The father was awaiting their arrival on the island.  The search is expanding from Beaver Island out to the outer islands to the north and west.

UPDATE AS OF 10:17 a.m.  The wreckage of the plane has been found in a cedar swamp on the Island. Two and a half miles from the airport runway.  Ground crews on the way there now.


UPDATE AS OF 10:30 a.m. Ambulance and E-car on the way to the scene. 


UPDATE AS OF 12:30 p.m. The discovery of four survivors is absolutely amazing to anyone who knows about airplane crashes.  But there is a side-line to all this, it seems the family was traveling with a pet parrot... and the parrot survived also!  

Unfortunately, both the pilot and co-pilot are confirmed dead.  Our sympathies go out to their families.

UPDATE AS OF 1:10 p.m. According to the Charlevoix Area Hospital the mother and daughter are listed as in serious condition while the two sons are listed in fair condition.  Let's keep them in our prayers for a speedy recovery.

UPDATE AS OF 4:35 p.m. Survivors of the plane crash have been identified as Mirth Gault and her children, Adam, 13; Emma, 9; and Alec, 5 according to Coast Guard .Chief, Adam Wine.

UPDATE AS OF 6:05 p.m. Mirth Gault is listed as in stable condition; Emma in fair condition; Adam and Alec in good condition.  They will be spending the night in the Charlevoix Area Hospital.  Kudos to Mirth who kept the children's spirits up by telling them they had to last through the night for their dad.

UPDATE AS OF 6:30 p.m.  The pilot has been identified as Curtis Logan, 51, of Little Falls, Minnesota and the co-pilot as Stephen M. Ehrhart, 23, of Elgin, Illinois according to Charlevoix County Sheriff George Lasater.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of this terrible accident.


The heroes and heroines of all this are the search and rescue teams.  The United States Coast Guard helicopter pilots who ventured out in such foul weather to search.  The Beaver Island Fire and EMS along with several island volunteers who submitted themselves to hours of riding snowmobiles in the rain.  Paul Welke, of Island Airways, who searched via his plane before the helicopters arrived (incidentally, it was Paul who found the wreckage).  To those who furnished coffee, hot chocolate, snacks for the searchers. The captains and crews of the Coast Guard ships who spent a night and half a day out on Lake Michigan.  Especially Mike Russell, Charlevoix County Deputy, who organized things on the island. Our hats are off to you all.  The jobs you do are vital to our community.  Congratulations on a job well done!

Governor's Cup

Michigan Merit Award


Congratulations Beaver Island



The Governor's Cup was established in 2000 as a non-monetary award to recognize the high school in each athletic conference with the highest number of Michigan Merit Award recipients, and the high school in each athletic class size with the highest number of Michigan Merit Award recipients.

Northern Lights League


Beaver Island Comm. High School (co-champion)


Mackinac Island School (co-champion)


Burt Township School


Whitefish Township High School


Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy

After the top two stories the one below was obviously written earlier in the week.  Next time I'm going to be really careful about complaining about the "slowness" of the news happening around here.

It's THAT time of year

February and March... hmmm, it's THAT time of year again.  As my grandma would say, "no news is good news" and that's pretty much it this week.  It's been slow.  In fact, if it gets any slower we'll be going backwards.

There are little snippets of news:

The road between the school and Stony Acres is extremely slippery due to the build-up of ice along with the snow.  For you mainlanders, the Island doesn't use salt... now you have the explanation as to why our cars last for years, they don't rust away.  In the course of the past week at least six vehicles have performed some very interesting acrobatics.  The grand prize for sliding off the road goes to Pinky Harman who not only performed a 360 degree spin, she managed to place her new truck neatly into the snow-bank stern first even though it had two blown tires.  Impressive driving Pinky!

Richie Gillespie has moved his fish shanty further out on the ice.  One wonders why since it has no hole for fishing.  Perhaps just a different view for those sitting on the recliners inside?

The Beaver Island high school celebrated its homecoming with a basketball/volleyball game against Grand Marais which was followed by a dance at the Peaine township hall.  Oh, the games?  Islanders won in basketball and volleyball on Friday.  Saturday morning, basketball was won by the Islanders and Grand Marais won volleyball.  

Grab this past Sundays Detroit Free Press... there's a great article on Beth and John McCafferty's Unfinished Farms dog sledding.  If you have a long week-end coming up perhaps you'd like to give John and Beth a call and sign up for a trip down the center of the island via dog-sled.  The new NorthernIslander (coming out in March) will also have an article of the mushers.

Three weeks ago, the school instituted a hot lunch program for the children.  On behalf of M.W.H.P.L. (Mothers Who Hate Packing Lunches) this is the best thing that's happened since the island got electricity!

Good news is that on Saturday, February 10th,  Ron Gregg, son of Phil and Lillian Gregg, will be coming home from Kosovo where he's been stationed for the past six months.  Ron will be heading home to his family at Fort Campbell, TN.  Welcome home, kiddo!

Like I said, it's been a slow week around here so far.  Ok, ok!  The next time I say it's been a quiet week someone remind me of the top two stories.

DateLine NBC to Cover the Crash

DateLine NBC was on the island working on an upcoming segment which will focus on the miraculous survival of the Gault family. I was lucky enough to meet with the people who are working on this report.

Jessica Gerstle, producer for DateLine; Mike Shamus, camera; and Tom Moore, sound, both freelance from the Detroit area, have displayed themselves as compassionate, caring reporters of this accident. Over coffee at Dalwhinnie this morning they commented on the hospitality of the islanders. Although a youthful group, these three professionals have covered many tragedies and are well aware of tender feelings. The program will be aired in a month or so and I'll be posting the date here.

The putting together of such a program is a long process. Gathering all the information, interviewing all those involved from the survivors to the ground crews to Coast Guard and law officials. Hours and hours of film is taken (6 hours worth taken on the Island alone) and then must be edited down to a 12 or 15 minute segment between commercials. Script has to be written and edited. It's a tedious process at times but the end result is, we hope, an accurate covering of this event.

I've debated showing photos of the crash site here, but after hard thinking, I've decided to put a few up just to give the public an idea just how amazing it was that anyone survived. The area is heavily wooded and the smell of fuel permeates, wafting in and out through the trees. Although the sun is shinning, the temperature is extremely cold. Jim Wojan and his crew were there to begin the process of removing the plane and getting the engines. It's a quiet place.. silence except for hushed words among those working. A reverent atmosphere, the realization of both life and death. The men who have been coming here since Friday's discovery are well aware of how fragile life is and shake their heads that anyone lived. A hundred yards either way and the plane would have hit hardwood, most likely with an entirely different outcome. Even those without a formal religion acknowledge that some sort of miracle occurred here... the only seats not damaged were those in which the members of the Gault family sat, and they hang upside down giving silent testimony to a phenomenon that leaves the men shaking their heads.

The plane cut a swath through the trees

The fuselage lies on the ground

The upside down seats give mute testimony of a miracle


February 14, 2001

Peaine Township hereby recognizes services rendered above and beyond the call of civic duty on February 9th, by the Beaver Island Sub-Station of the Charlevoix County Sheriff's Department, the Beaver Island Fire Department, the Beaver Island EMS, and the volunteers and ordinary citizens of Beaver Island, in the search and rescue of a downed aircraft, which contributed to the saving of three children and their mother; and the caring and dignified recovery of Steven Ehrhart and Curtis Logan, the pilots.

For individual recognition: Paul Welke for searching and spotting the wreckage from his airplane; Fire Chief Tim McDonough and Deputy Mike Russell for setting up and coordinating search efforts; Assistant Fire Chief Jim Wojan assisting, in and the evacuation of, family members to the Coast Guard helicopter; to the Beaver Island Fire Department, the Beaver Island EMS, the Charlevoix County Road Commission, and private citizens who contributed time, food, vehicles, and support; who without all these selfless contributions, this effort would not have been possible.

This recognition, and the most heartfelt thanks of Peaine Township to honor these people for their unselfish acts.

Peaine Township Board

John W. Works, Jr.


A Special Thanks

I received this e-mail and thought it appropriate to be read by all those involved with this story.  Thanks to William Aylward, who gave me his permission to place it here.

THANKS to all the dear residents of Beaver Island for their efforts and quick response to the tragedy that occurred last week.  Their tireless work to save the survivors of the plane crash will always be an inspiration and comfort to the relatives of Mirth and Bob.  The neighbors and the good and concerned people of your community should be proud of the way they conducted themselves to help save the Gault family.  We here in their home area are grateful for your community's unselfish acts while the family's ordeal was taking place.  You all define what TRUE VALUES are about.

Regards and Love to ALL

Mirth's cousins

Wednesday Update

Yes, the top story is still here and hasn't been moved into the archives.  Since this is a national story I'm going to leave it here for a few more days and just add the regular news items to it.

In all the celebrating of the miracle survival of the Gault family, the pilot and co-pilot haven't been mentioned often.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to get much information on Stephen Ehrhart other than he was only 23 years old and from Elgin, Illinois.

Curtis Logan

Obituary from the Morrison County Record, Little Falls, MN

Curtis (Curt) Logan, age 52, a resident of Little Falls, MN, passed away February 8, 2001, as the result of an airplane accident in Michigan.

Funeral services were held February 16 at First Lutheran Church in Little Falls with Pastor Sanna Reinholtzen officiating. Burial was in Calvary Cemetery in Little Falls.

Curtis Duane Logan was born April 7, 1948, in Aberdeen, WA, to Thomas and Helen (Reed) Logan. He was raised in Hoquiam, WA, and graduated from Hoquiam High School in 1966. Following high school he lived in St. Joseph, MO, where he obtained his private flying license and worked in the optometry business for 10 years. He then moved to Fargo, ND, where he was employed at Midwest Vision. Curt was united in marriage to Kathleen Brintnell on June 11, 1982, in Aberdeen, SD. When Curt moved to Little Falls, he obtained his flying endorsements: Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot, Certified Flight Instructor, Instrument Instructor, Multi-Engine Rating, and Multi-Engine Instructor. He also did carpentry work and worked for the Earl LeMieur Bus Company. Curt was currently employed by Air Cargo Masters of Sioux Falls, SD, and Northern Illinois Flight Center of Lake in the Hills, IL. Curt served on the Little Falls Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, was a member of the Little Falls Lions and was a current member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Curt loved life and did everything with enthusiasm—flying, golfing, helping friends and being with people. He had a deep love for his family and friends and a special pride and love for his daughter, Brittany. Curt passed away doing what he loved most, flying. He will be greatly missed.

Curt is survived by his wife Kathy of Little Falls; one son, Shawn Logan of Savannah, MO; one daughter, Brittany Logan of Little Falls; his mother, Helen Phillips of Tumwater, WA; two brothers, Thomas Logan of Aberdeen, WA, and Murrel Logan (Rachelle) of Aberdeen; one sister, Rita (Paul) North of Tumwater; and several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his father, Thomas A. Logan; stepfather, Paul L. Phillips; and best friend, George Fortier III.

Casketbearers were Richard Buchholtz, James Brintnell, Richard Radl, George Fortier IV, Thomas Logan, and Tane Evans.

As mentioned in the Tuesday Update, we are no longer a "secret".  Besides People magazine, DateLine reporters and television cameras are now on the island for their program.  As soon as I have a date that the story will be on DateLine, I'll publish it here.  Guess we may all have to move over to Hog or Squaw Island to get some peace and quiet.

Needless to say, life on the island has not stopped with the Gault story...

The Governor's Cup Award

With all eyes focused on the tragedy/miracle of the plane crash, the accomplishment of the island high school kids was shoved to the background.  

At 8:00 a.m. four seniors of the Beaver Island Community School along with the school counselor climbed aboard an Island Airways plane to fly to Sault Saint Marie to receive the Governor's Cup.

This special award was established in 2000 by Michigan's Governor, John Engler, as a non-monetary award to acknowledge (1) the high school in each athletic conference with the highest number of Michigan Merit Award recipients, and (2) the high school in each athletic class size with the highest number of Michigan Merit Award recipients (State Champions in Classes A, B, C and D).  For the year 2000, there are 75 Athletic Conference Winners and four State Champions.

GovCup3.jpg (271533 bytes)

The Governor's Cup was presented by Bob Nelson, Manager, Michigan Merit Award, from the Michigan Treasury Department in Lansing.  Receiving the cup for the Beaver Island Community School were: Abigail Adams, Courtney Moore, Kyle Wojan, Erin Russell, and Mrs. Elizabeth Croswhite.

Congratulations to the Beaver Island Community School!  We're very proud of you!

High and Dry? or is that High and Iced?

Looking out the mouth of the harbor the afternoon of February 14th, it looked like a fish tug standing on it's bow and exhaust could be seen wafting over the ice.  Curiosity was contagious as more and more cars headed around the harbor and out to Whiskey Point to see what was going on.

It seems that Jimmy Kenwabikise's tug, the "Ruby Ann Bayfield",  had hit the underwater marine railway at the old U. S. Coast Guard station and bent the propeller.  With a bent propeller the shaft vibrated and in turn burned out a bearing.  Bud Martin and his loader were called and the tug was raised by the stern.  Carefully lifting the 39 foot boat, weighing in at approximately 30 tons is a tricky job, but Bud managed to gently lower the stern on the ice where Jimmy and helpers will be able to make repairs.

Tuesday Update

Beaver Island is no longer a secret.  The publicity that the plane crash has generated has been something else.  Reporters from major networks and newspapers are swarming over the Charlevoix Area Hospital, calling and emailing people on the island for information.  

The story is coming out in this week's issue of People...the Feb 26th issue.

Obviously with all this, the regular island news has taken a back seat.  I will be moving all the plane tragedy info into the archives on Wednesday or Thursday and get this site back to normal (whatever normal is).

Monday Update

The investigation into the Thursday night plane crash is on-going.  Inspectors have been here and have been going over the plane and crash site.  As soon as they can they will be removing the engines from the plane and sending them to the mainland for a through check.  The results of their findings will NOT be available for several months, although I'm sure there will be many, many guesses by the people and the press.  I will let you know as soon as I know what caused this tragedy/miracle of Thursday evening.

Tomorrow the last two of the Gault family will be released from the Charlevoix Area Hospital and sent home to recover and rest.  I'm sure this year Bob Gault has the best Valentine ever... his family.

It may take awhile for Mirth, Adam, Emma and Alec to want to ride in another plane, but when they do return to Beaver Island, they will be welcomed with open arms.

Sunday Update

The investigation as to what caused the airplane crash of Thursday night is going on.  

For recent interviews with some members of the family and the pilots wife, please take this link I don't know how long this link will be available, but if it is gone, I think the Chicago Sun Times has its own search engine and you'll be able to find it in the archives.

Mike Russell, the Beaver Island Deputy for Charlevoix County, has been working around the clock since this whole tragedy started.  We are extremely proud of him and of those islanders - too many to name - who have been going back and forth to the site with investigators and doing clean-up.  You guys are remarkable!  It's too bad that both the local and national news people didn't acknowledge what a large part the islanders played in this.

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