Los Angeles

Man Killed, Boy Critically Injured in Pacoima Airport Plane Crash

The pilot was killed and his passenger, a boy, was critically hurt when a small plane crashed in Pacoima Monday on take-off from Whiteman Airport.

The plane came down just east of the main runway, and inside an adjacent facility of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.  Personnel ran to the scene, extinguishing the fire that erupted, and pulling the two inside from the wreckage, according to fire officials.

Moments after rising up from the runway, the Cessna 150, a two-seater, experienced an unknown problem that was reported to the tower over the radio.  On its descent, the plane clipped a building, and flipped onto its back, according to Amy Bastman of the Los Angeles City Fire Department.

Both victims were transported to trauma centers.  The pilot did not survive.    Late Tuesday, the coroner's office was attempting to notify next of kin of the pilot, and was withholding the name of the man in his sixties.

There was no further update on the condition of the 12-year-old victim, Bastman said.

No one on the ground was hurt.

The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and Whiteman Airport.  Tuesday investigators could be seen examing the wreckage.

Witnesses reported hearing no engine sound as the aircraft plummeted to the ground.

The county facility is not a fire station per se, but a storage area and home of such special operations as Urban Search and Rescue and Heavy Equipment, which runs the bulldozers used to create breaks, fight wildfires, and respond to flood and debris flow emergencies.

The Heavy Equipment team on duty Monday evening was enjoying a Labor Day dinner with family members when the aircraft came down.  They were outside, and some were startled to see the plane suddenly start to descend.

"It seemed like it had climbed, stalled, and then it veered to the left, and then did a corkscrew spin down into the top of the roof of our weightroom, and then proceeded to land upside down on the concrete, said Mike Roldan, a civilian transportation driver for county fire.

He and other members of the heavy equipment team grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran the some 150 yards to where the wreckage came down, and caught fire.  The extingisher was enough to put it out.

Both occupants were pinned inside the wreckage, and the safety harnesses would not unbuckle.  Roldan used a pocketknife to cut the seatbelt so the boy could be freed.  Others, including Justin Hall, extricated the boy from the crushed cabin.

"We let him know the ambulance was on the way, and tried to keep him calm, let him know he was going to be ok," said Hall, a senior fire supression aide.

"Very emotional," said Don DaMann, a senior heavy equipment operator.  "The guys that were here acted as quickly and professionally as they did.  And I really think that's what helped save that boy."  

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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