Former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM are expected to fully recover from burns they suffered in a fiery South Carolina jet crash that killed the other four people aboard, one of their doctors said today.
Dr Fred Mullins, medical director of the Joseph M Still Burn Centre, said the two suffered second and third-degree burns but had no other injuries from the crash that one witness described as a fireball shooting across a highway.
“Anybody who can survive a plane crash is pretty lucky,” Dr Mullins told reporters during a news conference this morning.
Dr Mullins said Mr Barker was burned on his torso and lower body and DJ AM, whose real name is Adam Goldstein, was burned on his hands and part of his head. The doctor declined to discuss specific recovery times for the musicians, but said such injuries can take a year to fully heal.
Both men are still in critical but stable condition, Dr Mullins said.
The Learjet crashed late on Friday night shortly after taking off from an airport in Columbia, South Carolina, where the men had just performed a concert for thousands of college students. The plane’s two-person crew and a pair of the musicians’ staff members – also their close friends – were killed.
As the plane was departing, air traffic controllers reported seeing sparks, officials said.
The plane hurtled off the end of a runway and came to rest a quarter-mile away on an embankment across a five-lane highway, engulfed in flames.
One witness said he was driving when a fireball streaked across the highway about 600 feet ahead of him. William Owens said he approached to see the two survivors frantically trying to remove their burning clothes.
“I noticed two guys who were on fire and it looked like a dance: They didn’t know what to do,” said Mr Owens, a 60-year-old delivery van driver.
Mr Goldstein had stripped off his own shirt and was helping Mr Barker strip naked, said Mr Owens, who was able to identify the men on Saturday night because of news reports that showed Mr Barker’s extensive tattoos.
Mr Owens said Mr Goldstein told him four other people were on board the jet, but the flames were too intense to get close.
“’Oh my God’ was all they were saying,” Mr Owens said of Mr Barker and Mr Goldstein.
“They stood there and it’s like – didn’t know what to do. None of us did.”
Several fans visited the hospital over the weekend. One carried a sign that read: “Get Well Travis.”
“I was just shocked when I first heard it and I knew that I had to do something,” said Ryan Meadows, a 19-year-old college student from Augusta.
Two other passengers – Chris Baker, 29, of Studio City, California, and Charles Still, 25, of Los Angeles – died, as did pilot Sarah Lemmon, 31, of Anaheim Hills, California, and co-pilot James Bland, 52, of Carlsbad, California, according to the county coroner.
Mr Baker was an assistant to Mr Barker and Mr Still was a security guard for the musician.
The plane was headed for Van Nuys, California. It is owned by Global Exec Aviation, a California-based charter company, and was certified to operate last year, said National Transportation Safety Board member Debbie Hersman.
A long-time friend of the co-pilot said Mr Bland flew anti-smuggling missions 20 years for the US Customs Service and flew missions for the Santa Ana Police Department in California and US Border Patrol.
“He was such an experienced pilot, it had to be something beyond their control,” said Tim Ferrill, a Huntington Beach, California, pilot. “He was an absolutely meticulous pilot, very thorough and not a risk-taker at all.”
Mr Barker and Mr Goldstein had performed together under the name TRVSDJ-AM at a free concert in Columbia on Friday night. The show, which included performances by former Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell and singer Gavin DeGraw, drew about 10,000 people to a neighbourhood near the University of South Carolina.
Mr Barker, 32, was one of the more colourful members of the multiplatinum-selling punk rock band Blink-182, whose biggest album was 1999’s 'CD Enema of the State'.
After Blink-182 disbanded in 2005, Mr Barker went on to form the rock band (+44) – pronounced “plus forty-four”. He also starred in the MTV reality series 'Meet the Barkers' with his then-wife, former Miss USA Shanna Moakler. The show documented the former couple’s lavish wedding and home life. Their later split, reconciliation and subsequent break-up made them tabloid favourites.
Mr Goldstein, 35, is a popular DJ for hire who at one time was engaged to Nicole Richie and dated singer/actress Mandy Moore.
Mr Barker and Mr Goldstein performed as part of the house band at the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this month.