20-Year-Old Pilot Defies Odds, Makes Miraculous Recovery From Near-Fatal Plane Crash That Left Him In 3-Month Coma

March 21, 2019

The darkest chapter of Brody Burnell’s story began in August 2017 when the small plane he was piloting unexpectedly crashed along an Arizona highway. At the time, it was not known if Brody would recover from his extensive injuries.

Now, less than two years later, after what some might say was a miraculous recovery, Brody is closing the book on that chapter and is ready to start a brand new one.

According to Fox News, “Burnell and friend Chandler Riesterer were reportedly on their way to Sedona when Burnell reported a mechanical problem.

“He was attempting to return to the airport when they crashed."

Both he and Riesterer were rushed to the hospital where the extent of their injuries was discovered. Fortunately for Riesterer, though his injuries were severe, he was able to recover much more quickly than Burnell.

In the crash, Burnell suffered “a traumatic brain injury, a broken left femur, a fractured pelvis, shattered ankles, and a pectoral muscle tear. His recovery, if it ever happened, would be a long one.

According to Dr. Christina Kwasnica, medical director of the Neuro-Rehabilitation Center at Barrow Neurological Institute, "[Brody] clearly had a severe, traumatic brain injury.

”Three months is a long time, basically, to be in a coma, so that puts him in the most severe group of patients. The other thing is that he had extensive orthopedic injuries."

That was August 2017. Over the next 19 months, Brody went through more than any one person should ever have to go through.

“He was in a coma on his 19th birthday, underwent 14 surgeries, and was in a wheelchair for more than a year due to a condition called heterotopic ossification, where bone abnormally develops outside the body's skeleton.

"The condition often starts after a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury."

Now, in March of 2019, less than two years after Brody's accident, and working diligently to heal from both his physical and his brain injuries, Brody is finally walking! And the 20-year-old was proud as can be to show off his skills for the press.


His latest achievement reminds Brody of the one he made last May when, after ten months at rehabilitation facilities in both Colorado and Nebraska, Brody finally returned to his home in Arizona.

Friends and family came together to show Brody just how much everyone had been pulling for him during his ordeal. And the smile on Brody's face said more than any words could!

Now, Brody is up on his own two feet - with the help of a walker, for now. But, from the looks of things, it won't be long until that walker winds up in the Burnell's garage, gathering dust and cobwebs - right alongside his discarded wheelchair.

Brody’s dad said he’ll continue extensive physical and speech therapy here in Arizona, and even though there is a long way to go, his dad said there’s a chance he’ll make a full recovery and that’s what they’ll be praying for.

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