ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Sunday brought a moment of hope for the family of a Hastings teenager in a medically induced coma after a severe car crash.
Brian Gapp, 16, crashed his car into a tree in Hastings last Tuesday. He's at Gillette Children's Hospital in critical condition, but showed unexpected signs of recovery Sunday afternoon.
"His eyes opened, he squeezed Grandma's hand and he gave a thumbs up," said his brother Phil Gapp, 22.
The good news came as Gapp spearheaded a tribute to his brother on the 20th anniversary of the Lowertown St. Paul Art Crawl. Dozens of family and friends attended the art crawl in Brian's honor, wearing t-shirts and carrying signs.
Brian Gapp had long wanted to attend the art crawl as an aspiring photographer and artist.
"We have six cameras with us and are recording to make sure he gets the experience even though he can't be here in person," said friend Dan Nielsen.
Phil Gapp said his brother was not texting or on the cell phone, but had only had his license three months when he veered off the road on his way to Inver Hills Community College, where he takes full time college courses.
"His guardian angel was in the passenger seat, and some of his other family angels must have been in the back seat," said Phil Gapp, pointing to the driver's side door that wrapped around a large tree.
Gapp said his brother should have died upon impact, and more miraculously, was still alive when he was discovered more than two hours later. Medical crews used the Jaws of Life to extricate him from the car. He suffered skull fractures and brain trauma.
Thousands have been inspired by his survival story, and have started a social media movement in his honor.
"Brian and his two younger siblings are fans of the kids show "My Little Pony", and when his older brothers and friends teased him for liking the show, he put cartoon ponies on his Facebook profile in playful rebellion. And so it became a subject of ongoing playful teasing back and forth. A movement started on Facebook when all these friends showed support for Brian by changing all of their Facebook profile pictures to different ponies from the show," said his father, Dennis Gapp.
Phil Gapp says his family has been inspired to work on a safe driving initiative after Brian's recovery, which may include a website and documentary devoted to driver safety for teenagers, something Brian would be proud to be a part of.
"He is docile, he is kind, he won't argue, he has a big heart. And he is very intelligent," said Phil Gapp.
Gapp also says his brother's recovery could be financially devastating to the family. Brian is the fourth of six children.