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SMSU Coach Recovering, Suspect Charged

July 30, 2012, 5:07 PM by David Brown

SMSU Coach Recovering, Suspect Charged
Brad Bigler | 2009


Southwest Minnesota State men's basketball coach Brad Bigler remains in stable condition Monday night in a Sioux Falls hospital after a car crash that killed his five-month-old son, Drake.

Bigler's wife, Heather, was driving the family back from a wedding Saturday night when their vehicle was hit head-on by a truck that swerved into the wrong lane on Highway 29 near Starbuck, Minnesota. Heather received some bumps and bruises, while her 74-year-old grandmother is in critical condition. The outpouring of support is coming from all over the area.

The driver of the other car, 38-year-old Dana Schoen of Starbuck, is charged with three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of DWI. This isn't his first run-in with the law either. Since the year 2000, Schoen has been convicted of two other DWIs. In both instances, his blood alcohol level was above .20, nearly three times the legal limit. But regardless of the circumstances, Southwest Minnesota State University is rallying to support its coach.

Brad Bigler became the SMSU men's basketball coach in September 2009. But he's been a part of the community for more than a decade.

"He's done it from the time he was a player here," SMSU athletic director Chris Hmielewski said. "He was a graduate assistant, an assistant coach and now our head coach. Brad Bigler is a Mustang and he embodies everything we're about."

Hmielewski visited Bigler in the hospital Monday morning. The coach is suffering from broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade and a punctured lung. But the physical recovery isn't nearly as difficult as the emotional one, knowing his five-month-old son, Drake, didn't survive.

"Today's a tough day because I think everything has slowed down and the realization of what's happened and the passing of their son Drake is starting to hit them," Hmielewski said.

Bigler's two other children were in a different car and unharmed. But sadly, this isn't the first time his family has dealt with some grueling circumstances. Bigler's mother passed away last year in a kayaking accident.

"As he proved last year in dealing with his mom's passing, you can make it through it," Hmielewski said.

And there's no doubt his players, his fans and his support staff will keep him in mind as he returns not only to the game he loves, but the family he loves as well.

"People here in Marshall and in southwest Minnesota will be there for them as they come home and as they continue the healing process," Hmielewski said.

Hmielewski says there's no timetable for when Bigler will leave the hospital. There's also no timetable for when he'll return to his duties as men's basketball coach, but his assistants took over for a period when he was mourning his mom's passing last year.

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