‘He Cheated Death Twice,' Family Says of Pilot Who Escaped Plane Seconds Before Train Crash

The only occupant of the plane was the pilot, who was pulled from the plane before the train hit it and was transported to a regional trauma center by the Los Angeles Fire Department

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A 70-year-old pilot who escaped a small plane crash moments before a train plowed into the aircraft, destroying the plane, was recovering Monday.

“He’s suffered pretty significant damage to his face, a lot of broken bones. He’s also got broken ribs,” Dan Mortensen, the pilot’s step-son-in-law, said. 

He cheated death twice in two minutes.

Dan Mortensen

Mark Jenkins was recuperating and stable – and most importantly – alive.

In an intense rescue caught on camera, LAPD officers pulled a bloodied Jenkins out of the plane, mere seconds before the Metrolink train would slam through into it. 

A pilot was rescued from a plane that crashed onto train tracks in Pacoima, just seconds before a train struck the wreck. Kathy Vara reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2022.

The plane crashed near the train tracks in Pacoima next to the Whiteman Airport around 2:09 p.m., the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

Mortensen said he and Jenkins and Jenkin’s son bought the plane together 20 years ago and consistently made sure it checked out every year in regard to maintenance. 

“He was a fighter pilot for the Air Force. He’s a very experienced pilot,” Mortensen said. 

Lapd Foothill division officers said they did what anyone would’ve done in that situation, adding that some good Samaritans stood at the ready to do the same before officer stepped in.

“What went through my head all night last night was what if they couldn’t cut through the seat belt in time or couldn’t get the door open because it was jammed from the impact. All it could’ve taken is another two seconds and at least he would have been killed, probably with certainty, I think,” Mortensen said.

He also said he believes the pilot chose the train tracks to save lives on the ground.

“The down side to that, I think, possibly a railroad tie or something, ripped off the nose wheel on touch down and sent the nose down into the ground, which caused a tremendous forward-slamming force so he hit his face and upper body pretty hard,” he said. 

He calls it textbook training, but with one bad calculation.

“In that calculation he didn’t anticipate a train coming through at 80 miles an hour,” Mortensen said. 

Jenkins is recuperating, and expects to have multiple reconstructive surgeries to his face.

No fire was caused by the plane's crash, and a minor fuel spill has been contained by firefighters.

No one on the ground was injured.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, the FAA said in a statement. Future updates on the crash will be handled by the NTSB.

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