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A plane crashed, then was smashed by a train. Its pilot was rescued just in time

A still image from an LAPD officer's body-worn camera shows the pilot of a small plane being dragged to safety, after his aircraft crash-landed in the path of an oncoming commuter train.
LAPD / Screenshot by NPR
A still image from an LAPD officer's body-worn camera shows the pilot of a small plane being dragged to safety, after his aircraft crash-landed in the path of an oncoming commuter train.

The pilot of a small airplane was lucky to survive a crash on a Los Angeles street Sunday — and he was even luckier when he was yanked out of the aircraft just seconds before a train hit the plane, which had come to rest on railroad tracks.

A Los Angeles police officer's body camera video captured the dramatic sequence, showing police and a bystander working to free the man from the wreckage as an oncoming Metrolink train's horn blares.

(Viewer discretion warning: The footage shows the pilot bleeding from his injuries.)

"Go, go, go, go, go!" a man shouts as the train bears down on the group.

Right after the officers pull the man clear of the plane, the force of the speeding train cuts the aircraft's fuselage in half, tossing debris far from the impact point, as witnesses' videos show. (Editor's note: The linked witness video ends with a profanity.)

The incident unfolded on train tracks that run parallel to the runway at Whiteman Airport, a general aviation airport in the Pacoima neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. The plane lost power and crash-landed near the intersection of San Fernando Road and Osborne Street, according to the Los Angeles Police Department's Valley Bureau.

The pilot was the only person on board; he was taken to the hospital after the ordeal. He was in stable condition as of Sunday evening, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The single-engine plane — its tail number of N8056L identifies it as a 1967 Cessna 172H, according to the FlightAware website — lost power shortly after takeoff, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by LAFD (@losangelesfiredepartment)

The officers' successful rescue happened to take place on a fitting day: Jan. 9 also marked National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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