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Former Bradley Baseball Star Among Victims in Lincoln Plane Crash

Mitch Janssen
Bradley Braves Athletics
Mitch Janssen

A former star Bradley baseball pitcher was the pilot in Tuesday's fatal plane crash near Lincoln.

Three people died when the small plane crashed on Interstate 55. Mitch Janssen, 22, of Princeville, was a 2019 graduate of Bradley University. He was a flight instructor at Synergy Flight Center in Bloomington. The plane departed from Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, where Synergy is based.

Elvis Dominguez was his coach at Bradley.

"He was everything that a coach would want in an athlete, everything a parent would want in a son, and somebody that I wanted to represent my program. So I did everything I possibly could to try to get him here," he said.

He said he considers all of his players to be family.

"We'd never shake hands, we always hugged. That's just my rule. And it's because it's a family. And I guess today we lost one of our own," he said. "I lost a child that was part of my family. I think if you ask my wife how many children we have, she'll tell you 35 of them."

Dominguez said Janssen gave up a chance to play baseball professionally to fly. He was one of the world's youngest certified pilots at age 20.

Matthew Hanson, 33, of Pulaski, Wis., and Kevin Chapman, 30, of Urbana, also died in the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration and NTSB are investigating the crash's cause.

Janssen won the Bradley Baseball Mike Dunne Award in 2019. He was named to the MVC Honor Roll for all four years of his Bradley baseball career. 

Dominguez said the program will consider what kind of tribute to make to Janssen's memory.

Tributes quickly poured in for Janssen across social media.

- Albert Pike

Son, brother, teammate and friend. #OnceABraveAlwaysABrave pic.twitter.com/G8TPVU7lRC— Bradley Baseball (@BradleyBaseball) March 4, 2020

Copyright 2021 WCBU. To see more, visit WCBU.

Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.