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Plane crash victim Erik Unhjem in 'good' condition, hospital 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

The 61-year-old Goshen man who was injured in August in a fatal plane crash on Long Island that ended up killing his wife and the owner of the plane has been upgraded to "good" condition, officials at Stony Brook University Hospital said Monday.

In an email, a hospital spokesman said federal privacy regulations barred him from providing more detail on Erik Unhjem's condition.

The Unhjem family also released a statement Monday through the hospital, thanking his caregivers and asking for privacy:

"We are very grateful and thankful for the care he is receiving. Because of the tragic nature of the accident and out of concern for Erik's well-being, we ask that you respect his privacy and the family's privacy during this difficult time. Right now our focus is solely on helping Erik to recover fully."

The American Hospital Association advises hospitals to designate "good" condition to mean that a patient is "conscious and comfortable" and that their vital signs are "stable and within normal limits."

The fiery Aug. 19 crash killed Erik Unhjem's 60-year-old wife, Jane Unhjem, an assistant school superintendent in Goshen, as well as the plane's owner, David McElroy, 53, of Orient on Long Island.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said it was unclear whether McElroy or Erik Unhjem was at the controls when the plane pulled up to avoid hitting a house and slammed into an oak tree before crashing upside down on Helene Avenue in Shirley. Both men were licensed pilots. A preliminary NTSB report on the crash found that the plane's engine and controls were working properly, yet the plane was flying at a "slow" and "anemic" pace.

A witness said the plane, a Socata TB10, ran down almost the entire length of the 4,222-foot runway at Brookhaven Calabro Airport before takeoff.

The Unhjems flew to Shirley to inspect the plane before a possible purchase and decided to take it for a test flight, officials said.

Federation Aviation Administration radar records indicated the plane climbed to 200 feet above mean sea level and accelerated to 63 knots groundspeed before falling out of radar range near the crash site, the NTSB said.

Local residents rushed to the crash site and tried to pull McElroy from the wreckage, but were repelled by the intense heat.

Erik Unhjem is a product manager for Pearson Education, a software education company, according to his Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

Funeral arrangements for Jane Unhjem are pending while her husband recovers, according to Donovan Funeral Home in Goshen.

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