WEST COVINA — A West Covina police officer received the Burn Institute’s 2012 Inland Empire Spirit of Courage Award last weekend for pulling an injured pilot and passenger from the burning wreckage of an airplane crash in Corona.
Officer Mike Weathermon was given the honor at a Sept. 21 ceremony in Riverside, officials said.
“I’m very proud of him,” West Covina Police Chief Frank Wills said. “He brought a tremendous credit and distinction to the West Covina Police Department.
He was the observer in an El Monte police helicopter being piloted by Fontana police captain and El Monte reserve helicopter pilot Dave Faulkner on July 20, West Covina and El Monte police officials said at the time. The crew members heard a distress call reporting mechanical problems from an airplane piloted by KFI traffic reporter Mike Nolan, who also had a teenage passenger on board.
The officers saw the plane lose power, plummet from the sky and strike power lines before crashing about 6:30 p.m. in a field about a mile and a half east of the Corona Municipal Airport,according to Federal Aviation Administration officials. Faulkner set the helicopter down about 100 yards from the scene of the fiery crash.
“Officer Weathermon quickly responded to the burning wreckage and safely pulled the pilot and passenger from the plane and escorted them to safety,” West Covina police said in a written statement.
Shortly after the officer pulled the pilot and passenger from the plane, it burst into flames, according to KFI.
The crash also touched off a brush fire, and Weathermon pulled the injured occupants of the airplane to safety, Wills said.
Both Nolan and his passenger suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries in the crash.
The Spirit of Courage Award is presented annually to individuals who have risked their lives to save others from death or injury by fire.
Founded in 1972, the Burn Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing burn injuries and deaths in San Diego, Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The FAA’s final report on the July 20 airplane crash has not been completed. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation.
PHOTO of WCPD Officer Mike Weathermon courtesy of the West Covina Police Department.