A pilot was killed Sunday when a single-engine plane crashed and burned as it attempted to tow a banner out of Compton-Woodley Airport.
The plane crashed at about 12:30 p.m. on a runway at the county-owned airport in the 900 block of West Alondra Boulevard, about two miles southwest of Compton's central business district. Images from the scene showed the plane on fire, sending thick smoke over the airport.
Several news outlets reported that Philadelphia Eagles fans had hired the plane to fly a banner over the Dallas Cowboys' training camp in Oxnard, but Dennis Lord, a commissioner with the Los Angeles County Aviation Commission, said the aircraft that crashed was attempting to tow a Bud Light banner. The plane with the Eagles banner never took off because of the crash, Lord said.
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The pilot, whose name was not released, was the only person aboard the plane, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. A second person suffered minor injuries during a rescue attempt.
Witnesses said the pilot made several failed attempts at swooping down and hooking the banner before the crash.
"The pick up of the banner seemed to be pretty routine. What happened after he attached to the banner is to be determined by the NTSB," he said.
Good Samaritan Michael Robinson said he watched the pilot struggle to get ahold of the banner, eventually losing control of the plane over the runway and hitting the ground.
A few seconds later, Robinson, who is also a pilot, says the plane caught fire. He and five others raced to the wreckage to try and help the pilot, who was trapped inside.
"He said a couple times, 'Help me.' It was very vague, very weak," Robinson said.
Another good Samaritan, Enkone Goodlow, said fire extinguishers weren't enough, so members of the pilot's banner crew drove a crash truck to the wreckage. But none of the first six good Samaritans were airport employees.
"No one knew how to work the truck, so I'm like no, we have to save a life. I jumped in the back of the truck, I took off the hose," Goodlow said.
Lord said all three employees working at the airport were trained to work the crash truck, but two were out to lunch when the banner plane crashed. The third did not see the crash, Lord said.
The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the crash.
"The NTSB will continue to look at that investigation and determine whether there needs to be some improvements in response or if indeed there was a lack of communication somewhere," Lord said.
NBC4's Joe Studley and Willian Avila contributed to this report.