Airplane bursts into flames on I-405 in Irvine
SANTA ANA (KUSI) — A twin-engine Cessna 310 airplane with two people aboard crashed and burst into flames on the San Diego (405) Freeway Friday leaving the passengers hospitalized in critical condition.
The crash occurred around 9:35 a.m. north of MacArthur Boulevard, about 1,000 feet from a John Wayne Airport runway, authorities said.
The passengers in the aircraft — a man and a woman said to be in their 50s and 60s — were taken to Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana, according to Deanne Thompson of John Wayne Airport.
The pilot of inbound plane — with the tail number N87297 — was trying to return to the airport with a crippled right engine minutes after takeoff when it crashed on the southbound lanes of the freeway short of Runway 20-R, according to Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration.
The plane — capable of carrying six passengers — was registered to Twin Props 87297LLC, based out of Santa Ana.
The freeway was closed in both directions, creating a massive five-mile backup on the southbound lanes, but the northern lanes have been partially reopened, Thompson said.
There was "debris all over the freeway," and once authorities cleaned up the mess in the northbound lanes they were able to reopen them, Thompson said.
The airport was closed for arrivals for about an hour, but departures were not affected, according to Thompson.
"Anyone headed to the airport today needs to find a route other than the 405," Thompson said. "It’s really a mess, and it’s a terrible shame."
Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz said the two victims "both had critical, traumatic injuries and have been transported to a trauma center. Both of them were conscious."
The woman passenger helped extract the pilot from the plane, helped by an off-duty fire captain from the city of Avalon on Catalina Island, who left his nearby vehicle and ran to the burning aircraft to aid their escape, Kurtz said.
Air traffic control audio captured the man piloting the plane shouting "May Day” and "I can’t make it back to the airport" seconds before the crash.
In the aftermath of the crash, the airfield was closed to arrivals, but those were resumed about 45 minutes afterward.
The airplane slammed into the southbound 405 and clipped a blue pickup truck.
The driver of the pickup, said to be an Uber driver carrying a passenger, suffered only a bruised elbow, authorities said.
John Wayne Airport remained open, but travelers were cautioned to arrive several hours before their scheduled flight.