It’s Michael Layne Gottschim’s smile that comes to mind first when family members think about the 21-year-old Marine killed in a motorcycle crash last week in Burton.
“Anytime he walked into the room, he had this goofy grin on,” Gottschim’s sister Angel Westall said earlier this week. “When you saw his smile, you just couldn't help but smile yourself.”
Gottschim’s aunt Amanda Miller agreed, saying the Torrington, Wyo. native “had a smile on his face no matter what was going on in his life.”
Achieving the rank of Lance Corporal before his death, Gottschim had served in the Marines since 2014 and was stationed at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
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He “was a good Marine and a valued member of the team" at Parris Island, Col. Edward Jeep said in a statement.
Gottschim was riding a 2001 Honda motorcycle around 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 23 when his bike collided with 2006, 4-door Nissan sedan in the Shanklin Road and S.C. 116 area.
He was “ejected from the motorcycle” — and despite wearing a helmet and safety gear, died at the scene, South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. David Jones said the morning after the crash.
Gottschim was heading north on S.C. 116 and the driver of the Nissan, who was wearing a seat belt and was uninjured, was attempting a left turn onto the road when the crash happened, he said.
The crash remains under investigation.
“Military police are working with ... Highway Patrol to determine the facts surrounding the accident,” according to a statement from the U.S. Marine Corps.
While investigators continue their work, Gottschim’s family in Wyoming is left in shock and mourning.
“For me, (Gottschim’s death) hurts, but I’m not sure it has really fully sunk in quite yet,” cousin Colton Miller said.
A graduate of Southeast High School in Yoder, Wyo., Gottschim was an avid hunter, fisherman, and an occasional bull rider, family members say.
“He was a superstar at soccer,” Amanda Miller said. “He loved cars, pick up trucks, and most of all of his motorcycles.”
Gottschim had two nicknames, she said. His friends called him Hanes, a reference to a humorous incident involving underwear. His family called him Buckethead, lovingly teasing him that his head was too big to fit any hat.
Westall remembered her brother as “an amazing uncle” to her two young daughters.
“His nieces worship him,” she said.
Colton Miller — who is also 21 years old and was described by family members as more of a brother to Gottschim than a cousin — said he is proud of his cousin for joining the military and serving his country.
“He took an opportunity to make something of himself,” he said. “If I could say anything to him now, I’d tell him how proud I am of the man he’d become.”