Hancock County Man Injured In Army Helicopter Crash In Hawaii

Michael Welch's mother, Diana Baldwin, was packing her bags Sunday. Monday morning, she's headed for Hawaii, but this is a trip to paradise she wishes she didn't have to make.

"It's pretty serious," Baldwin said. "They think that he'll make a pretty good recovery, but they can't make any promises yet."

20-year-old Private First Class Michael Welch was rushed to a Hawai'i military hospital following the crash. He spent 14 hours in surgery.

"He broke his leg, he broke his neck, his bone was actually outside his body in his leg and it was laying in the dirt. It was still connected, but it was laying in the dirt," said Kelly Welch, Michael's sister.

Welch grew up in Hancock County and attended Hancock High where he participated in the Junior ROTC program.

His family says he was destined to be in the Army and they think even after the accident, he will want to continue his military career. Right now, though, they say he's pretty traumatized.

"He told me he remembered the entire thing," his sister said. "He remembered looking out the window and seeing the other helicopter coming at them and when they collided, they just started to drop and they dropped 300 feet."

His sister says Michael is very close to his family. They're all very proud of his military service.

The accident, they say, is something they never could have prepared for.

"You always think well, there might be a war or he might get hurt, but you don't really think it's gonna happen to your kid, you know," said Diana Baldwin. "But, I got the phone call. I'm glad I'm not one of the ones that got the visit to the door."

The Army has paid for two plane tickets, so Michael's mother and sister can both fly to Hawaii to visit him in the hospital. Michael has also been asking to see his other sister and stepfather, but they can't afford the tickets.

If you would like to help the family, you can call them at 466-9535.

Meanwhile, the military is still trying to determine what caused the two helicopters to crash.