Family members of a West Valley City man critically burned during a crash-landing on the USS Lexington are in Mobile, Ala., preparing for his long recovery.

Mark Anthony Lopez, 21, was working on the aircraft carrier's flight deck when a jet pilot attempting his first-ever carrier landing crashed into the ship's tower, killing five sailors and injuring Lopez and one other sailor.Lopez, who was badly burned, is being treated at the University of South Alabama Medical Center's burn unit, where his mother and sister, Dena, have been close by since being notified by the Navy of the accident Sunday evening.

"Mark is still critical. He is very badly burned, but he is doing just great. He's just doing real well," said his mother, Judy Ellison, who lives in West Jordan.

Lopez's parents are divorced. His father, Ricardo Lopez, lives in West Valley City and is planning to fly to Mobile later this week or early next week. "The most important part of the recovery at this point is support," Ellison said.

Extensive burns cover about 45 percent of the injured sailor's body, doctors estimate. "His lungs are the main concern at this point," Ellison said. "They have a breathing machine on him." The burns to Lopez's lungs will likely keep him tied to the breathing machine for another two or three weeks. "If all goes well, we're looking at at least two months before they'd consider moving him," she said.

Lopez isn't able to talk. "He can't respond to us except a wink in the eye and a wave of the arm. He is aware of our presence," she said. The family has worked out communication signals: "If he lifts one hand that means yes, the other hand means no. Both hands means `talk to me some more.' "

The Navy scheduled a Tuesday afternoon tour of the USS Lexington for the family members. The ship remains docked in Pensacola, Fla., where it returned Monday from the accident 30 miles south in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lopez has served aboard the USS Lexington, a World War II-era carrier that was mothballed and then re-commissioned as a training vessel, ever since he finished basic training in San Diego more than three years ago. His enlistment is up in six months, and his mother has always been more at ease knowing he was aboard a ship that was used only as a training vessel.

"I cannot even count the millions of times that I've heard there was an accident in the service where I've said `I'm glad he's on the Lex where he's safe.' When it did happen, I was absolutely devastated. I'm still feeling very devastated."

Lopez had recently finished a Navy firefighting school. The training helped keep him from being more badly hurt, Ellison said. "That's one of the reasons his lungs aren't as damaged as they could have been."

"His helmet protected his face a bunch," she said. "For those in Salt Lake who have known Mark and know what a good-looking kid he is, his face is not going to be badly burned."