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Goshen plane crash victim able to speak, brother says

The crash of this single-engine plane Aug. 19

The crash of this single-engine plane Aug. 19 into a residential neighborhood in Shirley killed two of the three people aboard, authorities said, and the lone survivor is critically injured. (Aug. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: James Carbone

Erik Unhjem, the Goshen man injured in a single-engine plane crash on Long Island that killed two others, including his wife, was upgraded to serious condition Wednesday, and according to his family, is able to speak after having tubes removed.

Erik Unhjem, 61, can speak, though his voice is hoarse, his brother, Mark Unhjem, told Newsday.

The family expects him to be in the hospital for "weeks if not months," the brother said.

Stony Brook University Hospital officials would only say that his condition has been updated from critical to serious.

His wife Jane Unhjem, 60, a popular assistant school superintendent in Goshen, died several hours after arriving at the hospital on Sunday. Also killed in the fiery crash was the plane's owner, David McElroy, 53, of Orient, Long Island, who died at the scene.

The Goshen couple, interested in purchasing a plane, were on a test flight of a single-engine Socata TB10 when it crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday on the eastern end of Long Island. It is still unclear who was flying the plane.

Erik Unhjem was an experienced flyer, and according to federal records, had his pilot license since 2001.

Witnesses said the Unhjems emerged from the plane on Crestwood Drive in Shirley appearing dazed and severely burned before they were taken to the hospital.

The cause of the crash has not been determined.

The plane's maintenance records are a focal point of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

Funeral arrangements for Jane Unhjem are not yet complete, her brother-in-law said.

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