LOS ANGELES (AP) — The pilot of a small plane averted death twice in a span of minutes on Sunday, first when he crash-landed onto railroad tracks, then when Los Angeles police rescued him just before a commuter train smashed into the aircraft.
Bodycam video showed the officers working furiously to disentangle the bloodied pilot from the cockpit of the crumpled Cessna 172.
“Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!” someone yelled as the officers dragged the man away seconds before the Metrolink train, its horn blaring, barreled through the plane.
The single-engine plane had engine failure during takeoff from Whiteman Airport in the San Fernando Valley community of Pacoima and went down moments later, police Capt. Christopher Zine told reporters.
The plane ended up on a rail crossing in an intersection adjacent to the airport and just blocks from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Foothill Division station. Officers arrived at the crash scene almost immediately.
“I had requested Metrolink to cease all train activity, but apparently that didn’t happen,” Sgt. Joseph Cavestany told CBSN Los Angeles.
Officer Christopher Aboyte told KABC-TV that he initially stood by the plane trying to keep the pilot, who was seated, conscious and alert.
Then, bells and flashing lights signaled an oncoming train, Officer Robert Sherock told the station.
“We looked and sure enough there was a train headed right for us at full speed,” he said.
Officer Damien Castro told KNBC-TV that training and experience kicked in, and adrenaline helped.
“When things like that happen you kind of just go and do it,” Castro said. “You don’t really have much time to think.”
The bodycam captured the sight and sound of the train blasting through where the pilot had been seconds earlier.
“I think this guy needs to buy a lottery ticket ’cause he pretty much cheated death twice within 10 minutes,” Sherock told KNBC.
The pilot was the only person on board. He was taken to a hospital.
He was identified as 70-year-old Mark Jenkins by a relative, Dan Mortensen, who told KNBC-TV that the pilot suffered “pretty significant” damage to his face including broken bones and also had broken ribs.
Jenkins is a “very experienced” former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, said Mortensen, who co-owns the plane.
Mortensen said Jenkins probably intended to land on the tracks to avoid possibly hitting people on the ground.
“He didn’t anticipate a train coming through at 80 mph,” Mortensen said.
Metrolink service was halted and road traffic was detoured in the area about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.