A twin-engine plane crashed on one of the busiest freeways in California on June 30. The man and woman on board, both injured but alive, were pulled to safety from the burning plane by bystanders who had gotten out of their vehicles to provide assistance.
Officials said the pilot made an emergency call and attempted to return to John Wayne Airport soon after takeoff.
“We have a mayday! We have a mayday!” the pilot was heard screaming on the air traffic control radio communication.
“I’m trying to get a little altitude. I just lost my right engine!”
The plane then crashed on the southbound 405 freeway near John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California.
The couple, in their 50s and 60s were pulled to a safe spot, away from the burning wreckage by commuters, while the dramatic scene was recorded by several witnesses.
“Is there anyone else in the plane?” someone shouted. Learning no other passengers were trapped on board the burning wreckage, bystanders coaxed the injured couple to keep breathing, while the bystanders inspected their injuries, gave them water, and helped them calm down. They were soon sent to a local hospital.
“The fact that a plane was able to land and only strike a single vehicle is extraordinary,” said Orange County Fire Captain, Larry Kurtz. “Nobody else was injured was very fortuitous.”
“The plane collided, spun across the freeway and burst into flames,” Kurtz said. The wreckage was scattered across several lanes of the freeway.
The traffic was affected for miles on the busy connection between Los Angeles and San Diego, as firefighters doused the flames. Meanwhile, the airfield for arrivals at John Wayne Airport was closed for around 45 minutes due to the incident.
A blue Toyota pickup truck was clipped as the plane made its crash landing. The truck’s driver quickly pulled over to the side of the road, after making sure his passenger was okay.
“We have each other a hug that we were still alive,” the truck’s driver, Blackstone Hamilton, told KCBS-TV.
The driver suffered only a bruised elbow, though his truck was severely damaged.
Another witness, Tina Foster had just left John Wayne Airport when she heard a loud boom and saw something burst into flames.
“By the time I got up to it the only thing I saw was the flames,” she said. She posted a photo on Facebook, letting her worried friends know she was still alive and well.
Another driver, Brian Gladish, described the situation he saw, as he was driving down the freeway: “There was debris everywhere, the freeway was still on fire.”
Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said the crash is still under investigation by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The investigation resulted in a serious traffic jam to kick off the 4th of July holiday weekend.