John Meffert was looking forward to a Palm Springs vacation Friday when a small plane fell from the sky, hit the median, spun out and stopped in front of his car.
The 17-year veteran of the Orange County Fire Authority got out of his car and his training and instincts kicked in.
"I wasn't even thinking about my own safety," he said.
The off-duty fire captain saw the plane's female passenger pop her head up. She was alive.
"If she could be there, I thought I could be there," he said.
He pulled the passenger out of the wreckage and whisked her to safety.
Then he dragged the pilot out and moved him to a safe spot as emergency crews descended on the scene.
The two people aboard the plane — a man and woman in their 50s and 60s — were taken to the hospital with traumatic injuries.
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Four cars were struck by parts of the plane.
Meffert was surprised by the number of drivers who risked their safety to help.
"A lot of people were ready to help," he said. "I just happened to be in a position that maybe I was the first one there.
"It's kinda what we do. I wasn't looking for any fame. We're always here to help people."