Emotional homecoming at airport for teen who was critically injured in August plane crash

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Brody Burnell returned to Phoenix on Wednesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Brody Burnell returned to Phoenix on Wednesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Brody' first hug was with his grandma and grandpa. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Brody' first hug was with his grandma and grandpa. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
He and his friend Chandler Riesterer crashed their plane back in August. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) He and his friend Chandler Riesterer crashed their plane back in August. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Brody Burnell, left, and Chandler Riesterer, right. (Source: GoFundMe) Brody Burnell, left, and Chandler Riesterer, right. (Source: GoFundMe)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

“I’m coming home, I’m coming home, tell the world that I’m coming home.”

Brody Burnell, 19, is seen singing in a video because this homecoming was something many of his friends and family thought would never happen.

Burnell flew back to Phoenix Wednesday, finally coming home to Arizona after 10 long months away.

He and his friend Chandler Riesterer crashed their plane back in August. Chandler made a quick recovery, but Burnell was in very critical condition. He spent three months in a coma, and his mom and dad thought he would never wake up.

[ORIGINAL STORY: 2 men critically injured in small plane crash near Deer Valley Airport]

“The speech therapist came running down the hall and said, 'Bernie! Gigi! He’s talking!' I said, ‘I love you buddy’ and he said, ‘I love you too’ in a whisper. It wasn’t that loud yet,” said Steve Burnell, Brody's father.

Brody was flown to Colorado then Omaha, Nebraska for extensive treatment and therapy. His friend Austin Jones flew to Colorado twice to visit him.

[RELATED: Young men injured in small plane crash were passionate flyers]

“There was (sic) so many things with his spine and brain. We didn’t know what was going to happen, you know,” said Jones.

He still has major brain trauma and physical disabilities, but doctors cleared him to finally come home.

So Wednesday at the airport, the teen came home to chanting and cheering from dozens of people.

[SLIDESHOW: Small plane crash near Deer Valley Airport]

Brody waved to the crowd and then got the biggest smile on his face when he realized all of his friends were there for him.

“This is the best place for him to be, to see his friends again, to help his brain get going again. It’s just awesome. I can’t describe the feeling. We’re just so blessed,” said Jones.

Brody’s first hug was a tearful one with his grandma and grandpa, and then he waved at our cameras!

“I’m home, baby!” said Brody’s dad.

And for that, the Burnell family finally cried different tears, tears of joy.

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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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Briana WhitneyBriana Whitney joined CBS 5/3TV in February 2018, and is no stranger to the sunshine and heat!

Click to learn more about Briana.

Briana Whitney

She’s from Northern California, but prior to coming to Phoenix, she reported at KIII-TV in Corpus Christi, TX for three years.

During her time in South Texas, she reported on several national stories. Some of the most memorable were the 2015 Wimberley floods, reporting for eight hours off the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017, and reporting from the church shooting in Sutherland Springs in November of 2017.

Her general assignment reporting won her two Associated Press awards, six EMMA awards, and one Emmy nomination for a half-hour special she wrote, produced and hosted on the issue of child pornography.

Briana graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and during college had seven different internships at several news stations.

When she isn’t chasing breaking news or working on a feature story, Briana loves checking out the best restaurants in the Valley, and hiking or rollerblading around town. Briana is very happy to have made Arizona home!

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