Ed Brown, one of two survivors of the Memphis plane crash that killed prominent Tampa neurosurgeon Dr. David Cahill, is heavily sedated, but his condition is slowly improving, a close family friend said Friday.
Brown, 55, suffered a skull fracture and deep facial lacerations when the twin-engine Beechcraft piloted by Cahill flipped as it attempted to land at Memphis International Airport, killing Cahill and John Murphy, Brown's co-worker. Another co-worker, Chip Lomel, remains hospitalized.
Brown grew up in St. Petersburg and raised two daughters in the area, said St. Petersburg attorney George Owen, a former neighbor and a friend of 20 years.
"He's just a wonderful guy," Owen said. "What a terrible, terrible accident."
Brown, an avid boater, grew up in Allendale. He travels frequently in his job as a sales representative for Medtronic Sofamor Danek, a company that makes implants used in spinal surgery.
Brown was headed to Memphis for a business meeting when the plane crashed. He was accompanied by Lomel, the group director of sales, and Murphy, a district sales manager. Cahill, the neurosurgeon and pilot, was joining them for the meeting.
The men left Peter O. Knight Airport about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday and had intended to return home that night.
Owen, who has spoken to Medtronic officials and to Brown's daughters, said Lomel is conscious and talking about the crash.
The seating arrangement in the plane might have been the difference between life and death. Owen said Murphy was sitting next to Cahill in the front of the plane. Brown was sitting behind Cahill, with his back to Cahill's back. Lomel was facing Brown in the third row of the six-seat aircraft.
The plane flipped onto its back in the grass between the two main airport runways, investigators said.
Owen said Lomel, who suffered severe abdominal injuries, squeezed out of the plane and walked around in shock before passing out. Lomel has indicated the plane never touched the ground before turning over.
"The way Ed and Chip were sitting had something to do with why they survived," Owen said. "Chip said Dr. Cahill did nothing wrong. He did everything he could."