A pilot is alive thanks to a group of police officers that were able to remove them from a downed plane just a few moments before a train was set to collide with the wreckage. They were taken to a local hospital where their condition remains unknown.
In the Brink of Time
It was a harrowing scene for the Pacoima community just outside Los Angeles. Officials say a small plane crash landed on some train tracks near the intersection of Osborne Street and San Fernando Road at around 2 PM local time. The downed plane was partially lying along the path of the Metrolink locomotive.
Victor Rodriguez, manager of a nearby restaurant, saw the plane go down as he was heading towards the Whiteman Airport. He said the plane was heading south when it started to veer off course. The craft then collided with the train tracks.
“It sounded like the engine was completely turned off,” said Rodriguez, 32. “I looked away and heard a big crash, then looked over my shoulder. And it was like watching it bend and twist in slow motion when it hit the signs.”
He was one of around 15 people, including some witnesses and police, that came running up to the plane after the crash. The pilot was the sole occupant of the plane. Rodriguez said the man had a gash on his head but was able to respond to those that came to his aid.
Body cam footage from two of the police officers show the group trying to lift the pilot out of the plane just a few moments before the train crashed into the tail end of the plane. People can be heard yelling “Go! go! go!” during the rescue. They then shouted, “He’s out of there, they got him out!”
The pilot was then transported to a local hospital and none of the passengers aboard the train were injured, according to Metrolink spokesperson Janette Flores.
It’s not clear if the train conductor was made aware of the plane crash or if they tried to stop the train from crashing into the wreckage.
“I had requested Metrolink to cease all train activity, but apparently that didn’t happen,” said Sgt. Joseph Cavestany.
Metrolink then temporarily paused service about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, but both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate if anything more could have been done to prevent the accident.
“Seeing what happened, I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful the pilot survived as well,” said officer Robert Sherock.
Officials say the aircraft, a Cessna 172, was built in 1967. The owner, who lives in Santa Clarita, has a valid aviator license. The craft took off from Whiteman Airport before crash landing near the site.
Flores added that the passengers of the train were offered Uber rides and bus service after the train route was shut down.