Small plane crashes on California freeway; injuries reported

LOS ANGELES -- A small plane has crashed on the southbound 405 Freeway near John Wayne Airport on Friday morning, leaving two people injured, sending smoke billowing above Orange County and forcing the closure of the freeway in both directions, according to KTLA.

Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz said the plane had crashed and two people in their early 60s were hospitalized with traumatic injuries. Both patients “had vitals” when they were removed from the plane, he said.

“The fact that nobody else was injured was very fortuitous,” Kurtz said.

It’s not clear what caused the plane to crash, he said.

A preliminary statement from a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman indicated the twin-engine Cessna 310 “crashed under unknown circumstances” short of Runway 20R as the aircraft was inbound to John Wayne Airport. Two people were on board, the FAA spokesman confirmed.

In a online recording of air traffic control radio communications, the pilot can be heard crying “Mayday, Mayday,” explaining that he is trying to get more altitude and had “lost my right engine.”

The plane’s wreckage was on the southbound freeway near the MacArthur Boulevard exit, on the path that aircraft follow when landing at the airport.

The Cessna 310 aircraft “landed” on the freeway short of the runway at 9:35 a.m, the airport tweeted. The airfield was temporarily closed to arrivals, but departures were not affected.

Video recorded from a vehicle on the freeway showed black smoke billowing from the wreckage, with flames rising in the area of the center divider. Debris was all over the freeway, and bystanders could be seen stopping to help two people, at least one of whom was lying on the freeway pavement.

No other vehicles on the freeway were struck, Kurtz said. The plane’s wreckage will likely not be moved until is can be examined by federal investigators, he said.

“Right now this aircraft’s home is going to be here on the southbound 405 … for a little while,” Kurtz said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were set to investigate the crash.

The investigation means likely severe traffic congestions in the area in the lead-up to the three-day Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The FAA record for the plane’s tail number indicated it was a 1975 fixed-wing Cessna 310R registered to a Santa Ana company called Twin Props.