Mesa parents critically burned in fatal plane crash

Posted: Updated:
Plane crashed shortly after take-off

ST. JOHNS, ARIZ. - A local family is torn apart by a plane crash.

One person died in the collision in St. Johns but one Valley couple, who are parents to four children, made it through alive.

3TV spoke to a relative of the survivors on Monday. Family members are looking after Stephanie and Christian Nielson's children while they are at Maricopa Medical Center. The couple is in critical condition with their bodies covered in severe burns.

Family members say they were taken aback by their current condition in the burn unit.

While they are unable to speak, Stephanie and Christian understand their family members are by their sides.

Christian had just gotten his pilots license but it is not clear who was at the controls when the plane crashed. The Nielsons and another pilot had stopped to refuel their plane on the way back from New Mexico. They took off from an airport in St. Johns when family members say the engine died and the plane crash landed in a neighborhood.No one on the ground was injured.

Family members are relieved the couple's children, who often flew alongside their parents, did not go on this trip.

Christian developed a passion for flying. He reportedly jumped for joy when Stephanie bought him flight lessons for his birthday two years ago.

This has been a heartbreaking turn of events for the family who says their strong Mormon faith is helping. The family is now bracing for months of recovery and follow-up surgeries.

St. Johns police say Doug Kinneard was the other pilot in the plane who died after the crash. According to a flight website, he had been flying for 25 years and was a flight instructor in Mesa since 2002.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.