Accidental shooting leads to death of young local man

Erin Mullins

An accidental shooting has claimed the life of a young area man.
A report was received at 7:12 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28, that a young man accidentally shot himself at the Yellowtail Habitat east of Lovell.
David Hatch, 21, suffered a gunshot wound to the head due to a gun that he believed was unloaded, said Big Horn County Sherriff Ken Blackburn.
Hatch was hanging out with three adult friends in the central southeast corner of the Habitat near the Shoshone River and the gazebo, Blackburn said. The friends had been target shooting earlier and were enjoying each other’s company at the campsite.
No criminal play or bad behavior occurred during the incident, and no foul play was suspected. Blackburn emphasized that various methods of forensic analysis revealed definitively that the shooting was accidental. The public may speculate in situations like this, but the Sheriff’s Department seeks the truth, he said.
“And there’s always a rumor mill. And the fact of the matter is, they don’t necessarily care about the facts of the case. We do. And the facts indicate this was an accidental discharge of a firearm,” Blackburn said.
Two of the subjects at the scene immediately responded and rendered first aid in the manner that was advised by dispatch. A friend who was on their way to the Habitat was informed of the situation and waited near the Habitat boundary off of Highway 37 to escort the ambulance to the scene.
A life flight helicopter was called but was diverted due to poor landing zones and the fact that Hatch was already in the ambulance. Hatch was transported to North Big Horn Hospital and then life flighted to Billings Clinic.
Hatch passed away from his injuries on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 2, in the presence of many family, friends and community members who were there both in support of Hatch and in support of his family.
Blackburn wants to thank all the individuals who assisted Hatch during the emotionally charged, rapidly evolving tragedy.
“I want everybody to be assured that the best possible care was rendered. And I want to give a special thanks to the North Big Horn Hospital ambulance service,” he said. “They did a fantastic job of caring for the victim and helping him and transporting him. Additionally, deputies volunteered [to drive the ambulance] so that there could be more medical personnel in the back.”
Blackburn also thanked the friends on the scene, the multiple dispatch agencies and the staff at both hospitals for working to save Hatch’s life. Different deputies served various roles during the incident, including escorting the ambulance and staying behind to process the scene.
Although Hatch lost his life, he is giving many other people life. Hatch is an organ donor, Blackburn said. Because of Hatch’s “selfless donation” of his organs he has already saved multiple lives, and the remaining portions of his body will bless other people.
As stated in a public Facebook post by Hatch’s mom, Beth Hatch, her son’s donation of all his organs saved 8 lives so far. She asked for prayers for all the recipients of his donations to have successful surgeries. Beth wrote that although her son is her hero and she is gutted, she knows his donations will be a good thing.
A GoFundMe page called “Damn It David,” has been organized by Bianca Chavez on behalf of the family.
In this time of grieving, Blackburn said the family thanks all the people who have cared and done so much to help Hatch and his family.
Blackburn said he hopes the public exhibits caution in their lives and that the tragedy does not divide the community but rather brings it together.
“These are tragedies that rock our community. And I would hope that the citizens would have empathy toward the family and toward the friends and all involved at this incident. It’s very difficult on everybody,” he said. “And we would encourage everybody to be very cautious with any firearm at all times. And it’s easy to point fingers, but the reality is, this is the kind of injury that happens quite frequently.”