A small, twin-engine plane crash-landed on the I-405 freeway at MacArthur Boulevard Friday morning, June 30, erupting in flames and hitting one car and spraying debris on three others.
The six-seat plane had two passengers; their conditions were unknown. The pilot was a 62-year-old man, and his passenger was a 55-year-old female, said Paul Fox, an officer and a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.
They were conscious when first-responders arrived, and transported to a hospital. The pair’s vitals were good, said Capt. Larry Kurtz, of the Orange County Fire Authority.
At 9:35 a.m., the Cessna collided with the one car, with debris hitting at least three others, Fox said. No one in the cars was injured. The plane came to a stop next to the concrete divider between the freeway lanes and the exit lanes leading to John Wayne Airport.
The driver of the car struck by the plane is a fire captain from Avalon on Catalina Island and pulled the pilot out of the plane and administered first aid, Fox said. The passenger was able to get out of the Cessna on her own.
Video of the wreckage, taken shortly after the crash by OnScene.TV, shows the airplane’s cockpit and front section in flames and people spraying away with extinguishers to little effect.
The plane had left John Wayne but soon declared an emergency and tried to return, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We have a mayday! We have a mayday!” the male pilot shouted to FAA controllers, according to audio from the tower. “I’m trying to get a little altitude. I just lost my right engine.”
The Cessna 310 crash-landed on the southbound side of the freeway, short of the runway. The Cessna was registered two days ago, June 28, to a limited-liability corporation in Santa Ana, according to FAA records of the plane’s tail number.
The accident charred the freeway surface and the divider.
Andrew Granados, 28, works at nearby Prodex, which makes medical equipment, and was one of several dozen spectators on the Red Hill Avenue overpass taking pictures of the scene with his phone. From his office, he had heard a loud bang and the sound of something skidding along the roadway.
“I had to check it out,” he said. “Hopefully everyone’s OK.”
Traffic backed up on the 405 freeway. The southbound lanes and transitions to the 55 freeway were closed but were open by 5 p.m. after the plane was hauled away and roads cleared of debris.
The airfield was closed to arrivals for about 45 minutes, with four flights diverted to Ontario International Airport before JWA started accepting arrivals again; they were to re-fuel and head back to John Wayne. One flight was diverted to Long Beach Airport. Three planes went to Los Angeles International Airport, re-fueled, and then headed back to John Wayne.
Departures were not affected, said Deanne Thompson, a John Wayne Airport spokeswoman.
After the crash, dozens of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances filled the southbound lanes, as northbound cars drove slowly past the wreckage.
Retired NFL receiver Terrell Owens stopped on a street near the crash and called the accident “crazy.”
“Did anybody die?” he asked.
Owens said his son was to land at John Wayne this morning but was rerouted to Burbank.