2 crash survivors improve, 2 remain critical

August 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The was good news out of the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento Thursday. Two of the three helicopter crash survivors being treated there were awake, alert and reported to be doing quite well.

"Both were in very good spirits this morning," Dr. John Anderson said.

Anderson described marked improvements of two young firefighters - two of the just four survivors of the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of nine others Tuesday night in the Shasta-Trinity Forest.

Jonathan Frohreich, 18, and Michael Brown, 20, were both taken off ventilators and moved out of the intensive care unit Thursday.

"Both were watching T.V., somewhat surprised at the interest their case has garnered," Anderson said.

Brown suffered burns and fractures to his face and a bruised liver. Frohreich also had minor facial burns and fractures to his lower back. Both are from Medford, Ore.

The recovery will be much longer for helicopter co-pilot William Coultas, who remained in critical, but stable condition. The 44-year-old Coultas underwent three and a half hours of skin grafting surgery to treat third degree burns on his arms, legs and hands.

"His chances are fair," Dr. Tina Palmieri said. "The older you are, the harder it is, and the more you're burned, the harder it is."

The fourth survivor, firefighter Rick Schroeder, remained in critical condition at a Redding hospital.

According to witnesses, one firefighter rescued another from the burning helicopter in the seconds after the crash.

"Thanks to whoever he is, for stepping out, risking his own life to save one of his own," Trinity County Sheriff Lorrac Craig said.

A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board Thursday headed to the remote crash site to look for a cause. The difficult process of recovering the wreckage and those who died also lies ahead.

"These brave individuals risked their lives to protect all of us," NTSB investigator Kitty Higgins said. "We will work to learn lessons from this accident and make sure it doesn't happen again.


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