CORONA — A West Covina officer pulled two people to safety when a plane piloted by a local radio traffic reporter crashed in Corona Friday night and burst into flames, officials and the radio station said.
Radio station KFI identified the victims as “KFI in in the Sky” traffic reporter Mike Nolan and a passenger. Their injuries were described as serious but not believed to be life-threatening.
The single-engine Cessna 182 lost power, struck power lines and crashed shortly before 6:30 a.m. in a field about one and a half miles east of the Corona Municipal Airport, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer.
West Covina police Lt. Jerry Pearman said one of their flight observers, Officer Mike Weathermon, was training in the El Monte police helicopter on Friday.
The helicopter was being piloted by Fontana police Captain Dave Faulkner, who also serves as a reserve officer and pilot for the El Monte Police Department, El Monte police Lt. Dan Burlingham said.
The aircraft was flying over Corona when Weathermon and the pilot heard a mayday broadcast from a plane around 6 p.m. The helicopter got behind a Cessna. They told the plane’s pilot they will try to escort him to the airport, according to Pearman.
“The pilot said he won’t be able to make it. He said (he was) having engine problems and didn’t think he would be able to make it,” Pearman said.
Weathermon and the helicopter pilot saw the plane hit a power line with its right wing and crash nose down in an area near Lincoln Avenue and Harrington Street. A brush fire ignited around the aircraft.
The Cessna’s occupants got out. The plane erupted into flames after the occupants were clear, according to KFI.
The chopper landed about 100 yards east of the crash.
Pearman said the plane’s passenger was about 15 feet from the plane.
Weathermon pulled him and the pilot away from the plane, according to the lieutenant.
The airplane was reportedly registered to Nolan, however the FAA’s aircraft registry database was not functioning Saturday.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, with the NTSB spearheading the probe, Kenitzer said.
A preliminary report on the crash would likely be released by the NTSB within weeks, he added. A “probably cause” often takes months to determine.
– Ruby Gonzales and Brian Day