Brad Bigler, the men’s basketball coach at Southwest Minnesota State University, was in critical condition Sunday after a two-vehicle crash in western Minnesota that killed his 5-month-old son and injured two other relatives.
Bigler, 33, was hospitalized in Sioux Falls, SD, with several broken ribs and a broken shoulder blade, SMSU athletic director Chris Hmielewski said. Drake Phillip Bigler, the coach’s young son, was killed in the crash.
”Obviously it’s a tragedy when you lose a young family member,” Hmielewski told the Independent of Marshall. ”The thoughts and prayers of the entire Mustang family and everybody should go out to the Bigler family as they cope with this situation.”
Bigler has been head coach of the SMSU men’s basketball program for three years. The Mustangs finished 19-11 last season, winning the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament championship and making their third-ever appearance in the Division II tournament.
Bigler’s wife, Heather Bigler, was driving in Pope County on Saturday evening when a truck driven by a 38-year-old Starbuck man crossed the center line and struck her vehicle, the Minnesota State Patrol said.
All four people in Bigler’s vehicle were hurt. Heather Bigler suffered minor injuries, and her 74-year-old grandmother, Sharon Schuler of Granite Falls, was left in critical condition, authorities said.
The State Patrol said alcohol was detected in the Starbuck man’s system, and is suspected as a factor in the crash.
State records show that the driver had been convicted of gross misdemeanor drunken driving in 2005 and for driving under the influence in 2000, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In both cases, the man’s blood-alcohol content was greater than 0.20, or 2½ times the legal limit in Minnesota.
He also has convictions for reckless driving and speeding.
Before becoming head coach at the university in Marshall, Minn., Bigler previously served as an assistant coach at the school and played for the Mustangs for five seasons.
Hmielewski said the Bigler family sent him a text message early Sunday saying Brad Bigler’s condition had improved overnight and that he was awake and coherent.
The crash marked the second tragedy for the Bigler family in just more than a year. Brad Bigler’s mother, Diane Bigler-Hagenow, died last summer in a kayaking accident near Sacred Heart.
”We’re going to surround the Bigler family with all the love and support they need, and we encourage everyone to do the same,” Hmielewski said.