‘We got a mayday!’ Small plane crashes onto 405 Freeway in Orange County – Los Angeles Times
A small twin-engine airplane burst into flames as it crash-landed on the 405 Freeway in Santa Ana on Friday morning shortly after taking off from John Wayne Airport.
In a frantic call to the airportâs control tower, the pilot of a Cessna 310 told controllers he had lost power in his right engine and was trying to land as the aircraft swooped low over area buildings and the freeway.
âHey, we got a mayday! We got a mayday!â the pilot said, according to a recording obtained at ATClive.net, a website that streams and archives air traffic control audio throughout the country.
The tower told the pilot he was cleared to land but then told him, âYour gear appears to be up.â
âYeah, I know. Weâre still trying to get a little altitude,â the pilot said, his voice strained. âI lost my right engine.â
Barely a minute later, the aircraft slammed into the freeway. Video from the scene showed the aircraft bursting into flames and a tall plume of black smoke rising into the air.
Two people were on board the aircraft when it crashed, according to Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA. Their identities have not been released.
The plane had just taken off from John Wayne Airport when the pilot declared an emergency, Gregor said. He was trying to return to the airport when the crash occurred.
Both airplane occupants survived the crash and were rushed to a local trauma center, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz. He said a man and a woman in their 60s were pulled from the burning plane by an off-duty Avalon firefighter.
Orange County Global Medical Center, the closest trauma center to the airport, confirmed only that it had received âmultiple trauma patientsâ from the crash.
The plane landed in the southbound lanes of the freeway, just north of MacArthur Boulevard â next to the airport â about 9:30 a.m., CHP Officer Latos Quin said.
The plane crashed short of the airport runway, Gregor said. All arrivals to John Wayne Airport were closed temporarily but since have reopened, airport officials said. Departures were not affected.
No motorists on the busy freeway were injured. Only one vehicle was slightly damaged in the episode. Kurtz said a Mitsubishi pickup was âclippedâ by the aircraft.
âItâs just so scary,â Liane Lynch said as she eyed the crash site from a nearby office building. âI canât imagine the shock of driving and seeing the plane go down in your review mirror.â
The northbound lanes of the 405 were reopened by 10:15 a.m., and traffic was flowing normally.
The plane was manufactured in 1975 and registered to Twin Props LLC in Santa Ana, FAA records show.
The crash kept the 405 Freewayâs southbound lanes closed for more than 90 minutes. The only vehicles that appeared to be moving past the crash were commuters transitioning from the northbound 55 Freeway.
Crews were working to clear enough area to open some southbound lanes for 405 commuters, Kurtz said.
Office workers and motorists were immediately drawn to the scene of the plane crash.
âIt sounded like a car crash. Then we heard all these sirens, and we just looked out and could see all the smoke,â said Brad Schaeffer, 24, who works about two blocks away from the crash site. âWe walked over and saw people rushing over to the planes.â
Traffic on the northbound 405 slowed to a crawl for hours as drivers eyeballed the wreckage and fire crews.
Saul Pantaleon said he was on his lunch break when he decided to drive a few blocks to get a better look. He said he often takes his kids to the parking lot adjacent to the freeway to watch the planes land.
âI think about it sometimes when I see the planes flying over [the freeway],â he said. âWhat would it be like if something like this happened?â
12:35 p.m.: This article was updated with details about the pilotâs call to the control tower.
12:10 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Lynch, Pantaleon and Global Medical Center.
11:15 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from Gregor and Kurtz.
10:50 a.m.: This article was updated with a witness account.
10:20 a.m.: This article was updated with details on the plane and disruptions at John Wayne Airport.
This article was originally published at 10:10 a.m.