Dec. 7, 2011 -- While investigators struggle to piece together what happened when model and fashion editor Lauren Scruggs was severely injured after accidentally walking into the propeller of a small plane, one focus will be the pilot of the aircraft, who has been identified as a friend of her and her family.
Kurt Richmond of Frisco, Texas, was the pilot who flew Scruggs above Dallas to view Christmas lights on Saturday night prior to the accident. Although Richmond has not answered repeated requests for an interview, ABC News has learned that the Scruggs family does not blame Richmond for the accident that severed Lauren's hand and sliced the left side of her face and shoulder. At this point it is still unclear whether she will lose her left eye.
Lauren's parents Cheryl and Jeff Scruggs said that they believe the 23-year-old walked back toward Richmond's plane at the private airport north of Dallas to say a final thank you, perhaps as he was preparing to take off again.
While investigators look into the events leading up to the tragic accident, many are speculating as to why the propeller was left running in the first place. ABC News Aviation Consultant John Nance says that most of the time pilots would never let a passenger in or out with the engine and the propeller running.
"The pilot of a bird like an Aviat Husky is going to in almost all cases shut the engine down completely and have the propeller stop, which happens almost immediately as soon as you shut it down," Nance said. "Because we know the danger of having a human being anywhere close to a twirling prop."
Nance agrees that she may not have known that she was in the vicinity of the spinning propeller when she was struck, adding that the engine on a small airplane makes far more noise than the propeller does, and she would need to be acutely aware of the physiology of the airplane to be able to detect it.
"It is highly probable that Lauren was coming back and the pilot did not know that she was in the vicinity … it would be one of your worst nightmares to see somebody looming up out of the darkness towards a propeller that's running," Nance said.
Lauren underwent several surgeries over the weekend and is now in stable condition at Dallas' Parkland Hospital. The extent of her brain injury is still not known, family spokesperson Janee Harrell told ABCNews.com.
She is once again communicating -- when asked her name she said 'Lauren' and when she saw her parents she said "I love you."
"We're just praying that, her left eye will regain its sight. It's just going to be a long journey, a long recovery," Jeff Scruggs told ABC News.
Lauren, who started a fashion website called Lolo and also worked in the wardrobe department of the TV show "Gossip Girl," was not drinking at the time of the accident, according to her parents.