Comments and Plea from Mike's cousin |
We've lost a friend.
Its always sad to hear of a loss, especially when it happens doing
what we all love, and to someone we've spent time with. I'm sorry mostly
for his family and close friends, my pain pales in comparison with
leaves behind two children, Sarah 16 and David 8 along with his wife,
Alma. And he leaves behind a hole in the community of paramotor pilots.
met Mike in about 2000 during a little fly-in at Nick Scholtes
Paradrome. Even then his Paramotor brand machine was dated and heavy.
But he didn't have any problem whatsoever hefting it up onto his PVC pipe stand
where he would get ready. Launching that thing was a production, really,
but he would always do it with a smile and was pretty good at it. He flew
that boat anchor as a badge of honor, having conquered a machine that most
pilots had long since relegated to wheels.
Even after he bought a new unit he kept flying that monstrosity.
Mike smiled more than most and knew how to have fun. I have some
funny shots of him in one of my videos. He added a lot.
On a layover in Indianapolis, he came out to the overnight
hotel, fetched me to a local flying site, provided a motor and we
cruised the countryside. He also provided my first flight on a Paramotor
He wouldn't dream of letting a friend visit without providing airtime.
He would periodically visit us here in the Chicago area. Now I'm
sorry I missed him last month. We just never know. Relish time with your
friends. Realize that neither we nor them will always be around. It's
always a reminder of the fragility of life.
Mike frequently lived life on the edge, an edge that finally took
him. He drowned after going into the water while foot dragging through a
retention pond. He knew of the increased risk in these actions, we
talked about it, but it was something he was driven towards. Any of us
who fly accept extra risk, some more than others.
Choose risk carefully, our loved ones trust us to come back to them. Lets
always try to remember what's at stake. No, we're not going to sequester
ourselves in a padded room—the allure of flight is too strong. We will press on but I'll
sure try to treat my time aloft with the respect it rightfully deserves.
Mike was one of the humans you would have enjoyed being around. Many
did. I sure did.
We'll miss you, Mike.
1) Mike flying over Darren Smith's
place. 2) With a group at one of Don Jordan's gatherings. 3 & 4) Mike
and some friends flew over to Monticello airport to send me off. 5)
Mike and I at the 2007 FL convention, photo by Kevin Sage. 6)
Cruising the Indiana countryside.
7 & 8) Other shots from Monticello.
Alma and family will, no doubt, be in great financial need. The
Indianapolis Club will be taking collected donations but they can also
be sent directly. Although the family has not, donations would be
incredibly helpful as they try to press on. Please send contributions
1964 Mann Rd.
Beech Grove, IN 46107
Pastor Jim Hughes presided over the service at
Little and Sons Funeral Home, 1301 Main St. in Beech Grove Indiana on
Friday, June 6, 2007.
Insight From Jason Wright
Who was there when it happened
We all know about the danger of water. We think about how hard it
might be to get out of the harness in the event of a water landing, and
the danger of getting tangled in the lines.
Maybe you've rehearsed quickly unbuckling from your harness. Maybe
you've run through the scenario hundreds of times in your head to where
you're pretty certain you'll instinctively do it perfectly.
There are a couple of extra things to ponder when assessing the risk
of flying over water. My good friend Mike made it past what one might
think is the toughest part of a water landing-- getting out of the
harness and getting clear of the lines. Mike made it past that part...
He was well on his way to shore when he succumbed to exhaustion.
You may be a great swimmer and in great physical shape. You may be
able to swim several laps in the pool. But remember, when you jump into
the pool you're usually expecting it, and you're usually dressed for the
occasion. The struggle to get out of a paramotor and get to the surface
could very well put you on the brink of exhaustion before you ever head
for dry land. Add potential panic factor and things are getting tougher.
Then add clothing and shoes and the situation is looking even worse.
In an heroic attempt to save Mike, some of the pilots who were there
went into the water. They were shocked at how difficult it was to swim
in clothes and boots or shoes. One described it to me as "like swimming
I just wanted to share these thoughts. It wouldn't be too hard to
convince one's self that the risk of flying low over water isn't that
high. You might think the water isn't that deep, or that you can swim
well enough and have rehearsed the event enough to survive. Just please
remember the other factors of a water landing like possible panic, the
difficulty of swimming in clothing, etc. when you assess the risk you
are willing to take.
And remember that water hazards are everywhere. This most recent
tragedy didn't occur in the ocean or a huge body of water—it was a
neighborhood retention pond in the midwest.
Description of Events from Brandon Oberlin
Who was the last person to touch Mike while he was
alive during a rescue attempt
Mike was flying low
over water, apparently misjudged the surface, and got dragged in. He
sank immediately, unbuckled his harness underwater, surfaced, and swam
for shore. About halfway to shore he went under and drowned.
Those of us who were
there tried to save him, but we were unable to. Mike was a dear friend
of mine, and a household name to hundreds of PPG pilots. Those who know
him, know that he lived life on his own terms and lived it to the
He was one of the most
generous people I've known: kind, forgiving, honest, and passionate.
He loved flying. He
was trained by Alan Chucalate in 1996 and as such, was the most
experienced pilot in Indiana, and one of the most skilled pilots in the
Midwest. He has left a huge hole—we will miss him tremendously.
Mike was well aware of
the risks he took. Risk and reward. He chose his level of risk with full
knowledge of the danger involved. PPG, like most other things, can be as
safe or as dangerous as you choose to make it. To pre-empt the armchair
warriors that will say, "he makes the sport look bad" and all that, I
say this to you: "Chose
the level of risk you are comfortable with. Each man makes his own
decisions—that is the essence of free will."
We love you Mike; may God bless you and your family through this hard