Mike Hemmer, a Boeing engineer, was on a business trip when he was flying back to Seattle from Istanbul. On February 25, 2009, Mike remembers taking a taxi to the airport to catch a flight to Amsterdam that would transfer him to a flight destined to Seattle. The next thing Mike knew, he woke up in a hospital in Amsterdam. He has no recollection of boarding the plane that ultimately crashed just under a mile away from Schipol Airport in Amsterdam.
“Within a week afterwards when I learned that I was in the plane crash and stuff, I think about that time I started to realize you know I’m pretty busted up and I really did go through a plane crash and people died. And it was probably about that same time, when I wondered if there was a group of people, a gathering somewhere praying for my recovery um, and little did I know that there were hundreds of people praying for my recovery, through our parish network…”
On February 25, 2009, Mr. Hemmer boarded a plane in Istanbul destined for Amsterdam, where he was to transfer to another flight, destined for Seattle, Washington. The plane that Mr. Hemmer boarded in Istanbul approached the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam under auto-pilot, intending a standard instrument landing system (ILS) approach and landing. As the plane approached the Schipol Airport, at an actual height of approximately 2,000 feet, the Captain’s radio altimeter (Altimeter “A”), malfunctioned and transmitted a message to the auto-throttle system that the plane’s altitude was minus-8 feet (below sea level). At the time, however, the plane was at an elevation of 2,000 feet, and, without the thrust of the engines, it rapidly descended and crashed 1.5 kilometers (9/10th of a mile) north of the Schipol Airport runway.
Mike was severely injured in the crash. However, his three colleagues who sat inches away from him on the same plane did not survive.
He sustained high-energy trauma in the plane crash, causing multiple fractures to his limbs, face and back. In addition to crushing injuries to his lungs resulting in bilateral pleural effusion, a torn right thumb ligament, liver function disorder, three fractured teeth, an orbital blowout fracture, and a broken nose, Mike also sustained comminuted and dislocation fractures to his right arm, right wrist, left upper arm, left ankle, and right femur. He spent five weeks in VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, Holland, undergoing surgeries and treatment for his injuries. On March 30, 2009, Mr. Hemmer was returned to Federal Way, Washington, where he continued to convalesce.
To date, Mike has undergone 10 separate surgeries to treat his injuries. He has had to rely on friends and family to do household chores and otherwise assist him in his recovery. Because of his injuries and disability, Mike was unable to return to work in his regular position as an engineer for several months. His position at Boeing had been as a manager in the AWACS division of Boeing (Airborne Early Warning System), and he had worked on the Turkey program for many years. He had a security clearance by the Department of Defense – Defense Investigative Services. Beginning on August 21, 2009, he began attempting part-time employment as an engineer. He was unable to work full-time because of continued pain and disability. Mike is now permanently disfigured and disabled. His right leg is now one and one-half inches shorter than his left leg. He has restricted range of motion in his right wrist and left arm and shoulder. A metal rod inserted in his left upper arm protrudes one and a half inches above his clavicle. He also has multiple permanent scars from the many surgeries he underwent.
SKW airplane crash attorneys brought a lawsuit against the [confidential] airlines and Boeing. A confidential amount was reached as the result of a settlement agreement against both defendants.
Despite all that Mike has been through, he remains an incredibly positive and happy person. His wife, Shirley Hemmer, stayed by his side and provided Mike with support and strenght. Mike has three children, Jennifer, Eric and Abby.