MARSHALL - Southwest Minnesota State University head men's basketball coach Brad Bigler was talking from his hospital bed Monday and will soon be fitted for a shoulder brace for a broken scapula he suffered in Saturday night's car crash, SMSU Director of Athletics Chris Hmielewski said Monday afternoon.
Hmielewski visited Bigler and his wife Heather at Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Monday.
"It was good to see Brad," he said. "He wanted to talk. Both he and Heather shared how they were feeling. Brad is looking at healing physically and mentally as he tries to cope with the loss of a loved one. The nice thing is they've got strong faith and a great family that's surrounded them."
Bigler is recovering from extensive injuries suffered in Saturday night's two-vehicle crash near Starbuck that killed his five-month old son, Drake. Heather Bigler's grandmother, Sharon Schuler of Granite Falls, underwent successful surgery Sunday for her injuries.
The vehicle Heather Bigler was driving was struck head-on on Minnesota Highway 29, the Minnesota State Patrol said.
The driver of the other vehicle, Dana Schoen of Starbuck, was charged in Pope County on Monday with three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide and one count of DWI, a gross misdemeanor. Schoen was not injured.
A search of online Minnesota court records showed Schoen has two past convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, both in Pope County. Schoen pleaded guilty to DUI charges in July 2000, and pleaded guilty to second degree DWI charges in January 2005, court records said. In both cases, his blood-alcohol content was reported as higher than .20, court records said. Minnesota's drunk driving limit is .08.
Brad Bigler suffered several broken ribs and a broken shoulder blade. He also suffered a punctured lung.
"He was talkative, and it looked like he was getting some of his strength back," said Hmielewski. "With all that said, he was still in a traumatic accident and he's got some healing to do. We're gonna be there for him, and when I say 'we' I mean everybody in the community, and help him in his journey."
Hmielewski said Monday's visit to the hospital was an emotional one for everyone involved.
"There were lots of hugs," he said. "Heather was able to start talking about what had happened and shared what she could remember about the accident."
Bigler has been head coach at SMSU for three years and has also been an assistant coach and player for the Mustangs.
The Southwest Minnesota State University athletics department, on behalf of the Bigler family, has established the "Drake Philip Bigler Memorial Fund" through the SMSU Foundation Office.
Individuals wishing to make a donation for the "Drake Philip Bigler Memorial Fund" should send checks payable to the SMSU Foundation and please include a note stating that your gift is in memory of Drake Bigler.
All donations can be sent to:
SMSU Department of Athletics
Attn: Drake Philip Bigler Memorial Fund
1501 State Street
Marshall, MN 56258