ALBANY, N.Y. — Three orphaned brothers who survived a plane crash are facing a long emotional recovery, and the love and support of their family will go a long way in helping them, psychologists said Friday.
A pediatric counselor already has been treating the boys at the hospital, and relatives have been at their sides constantly, doctors said.
The boys, ages 2, 5 and 10, were found on the side of a southwestern Massachusetts mountain Monday, about 18 hours after the plane they were in crashed, killing their parents and two siblings.
"The main thing is the extended family is stepping in, which I think is very important," said Dr. Rudy Nydegger of the New York State Psychological Association.
The children will live with their aunt and uncle in upstate New York, near other members of the closely knit family.
The boys' family was returning home to Swanzey, N.H., from a Florida vacation when their single-engine plane crashed. Just before the crash, the father told air traffic controllers ice was forming on the wings of the plane.
National Transportation Safety Board officials said the plane was moved Friday to a salvage facility in Maine. An investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.
Tyler Ferris, 10, Jordan, 5, and Ryan, 2, suffered severe hypothermia. Jordan and Tyler also had broken limbs. Ryan was upgraded to fair condition Friday. His brothers remain in serious condition.
Doctors said it may take a few weeks before they know whether the boys will lose extremities or tissue to frostbite. Hospital officials have said that the boys could go home in about two weeks.
Experts said the children's ages will make a difference in how they cope.
"The 10-year-old — this child is going to have the most vivid recollections, and he's going to be the least likely to sort of modify or adapt his memory to what he's told," said Dr. Gil Reyes, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at the University of South Dakota. "It's likely to become a central feature of his life."
The boy also will feel responsible for his younger brothers, Reyes said.
The 5-year-old probably will have some memories of the crash, but will also be very susceptible to what he's told about it. The 2-year-old will probably have no memory of the crash, but "his attachment needs are more pronounced," Reyes said.
Anxiety, fear, sleep disorders and aggressiveness are very common reactions to trauma, Nydegger said.
"There would be a trauma if no one was killed, the trauma of exposure, the terrible fear ... when the plane was going down," Nydegger said.