Valley father speaks out about son's recovery after north Phoenix plane crash

PHOENIX - A Valley father is speaking out after his son and another man were involved in a plane crash in north Phoenix last month.

Steve Burnell says on Tuesday, Aug. 1, he received the call that no one wants to hear.

“My friend Bob called me and said ‘Meet me at the airport; the plane went down,”” Steve said. “‘The boys are alive.’ That was a long 10-minute drive to Deer Valley Airport. I don’t want to do that again.”

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Steve says it’s a miracle that his 19-year-old son Brody survived the crash. Brody’s co-pilot, Chandler Riesterer, also survived.

According to witnesses, the aircraft was seen swirling around almost immediately after taking off from Deer Valley Airport. Parts of the plane were seen scattered in the area of 19th Avenue and Deer Valley Road.

Nearly 20 witnesses helped remove the two men from the plane, authorities said.

“It’s been the hardest thing we’ve ever done, but we are two families of faith and believe God is a God of mercy and miracles,” Steve explained. 

Although both men have a long road to recovery, Steve remains optimistic. 

“I believe both boys are going to be fine, that’s what my heart is telling me,” Steve said. “Chandler is doing fantastic. He’s out of acute care and is in sub-acute care — talking and as sassy as ever. A visit from Chandler is always an adventure.”

However, Brody’s injuries are much more extensive. He has undergone multiple surgeries to repair multiple broken bones. He also remains in a partial coma.

“But they’re [his bones] are all healed and doing good so it’s time for Brody’s brain to take its turn and repair,” Steve said. 

According to Steve, Brody has loved airplanes since he was a young boy. He first fell in love with the idea of flying on a Southwest Airlines flight.

“Since he was six, I remember taking him to the airport just to look at airplanes,” Steve said. “At age 12, he started lessons; flying was his thing. At 17 years old, he solo’d the airplane for the first time and at 18 he was a fully licensed FAA pilot.” 

Steve keeps an online journal of Brody and Chandler’s recoveries to keep family, friends and other supporters up-to-date. So far it has garnered more than 15,000 followers.

“He’s not beat up anymore,” Steve explained. “He’s just sleeping and handsome as ever. We’re just waiting for him to wake up.” 

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