Arizona pilot, 20, who spent 3 months in a coma, 1 year in a wheelchair after crash walking again

It’s been a long road for Brody Burnell, 20, but the former Arizona pilot is finally walking again less than two years after the small plane he was flying went down in north Phoenix, AZ Central reported Tuesday.

Burnell and friend Chandler Riesterer were reportedly on their way to Sedona when Burnell reported a mechanical problem in August 2017. He was attempting to return to the airport when they crashed. Burnell suffered a traumatic brain injury, broken left femur, fractured pelvis, shattered ankles, and a pectoral muscle tear.

Both men were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Reisterer made a fast recovery, reported last year.


After being in a coma for three months, going through 14 surgeries and staying in a wheelchair for more than a year, Burnell’s has reportedly recuperated well.

"It's a combination of hard work, a lot of therapies and some surgery on his knees that has made a huge difference," Dr. Christina Kwasnica, medical director of the Neuro-Rehabilitation Center at Barrow Neurological Institute, told AZ Central.

Burnell has been walking since December and is no longer using the wheelchair, his father told AZ Central. “He’s a happy kid and we’re grateful for that,” he said.

He also hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Burnell joked in front of reporters that the PT in physical therapist stands for "physical terrorist."

He now hopes to go back to his barista job at Dutch Bros., AZ Central said, where he can reportedly still recite the names of every coffee and price on the menu.

He reportedly no longer wants to be a pilot.


Burnell now plans to enter the Center for Transitional Neuro-Rehabilitation at the Barrow Neurological Institute.