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‘It’s not gonna stop’: LAPD officers recall harrowing rescue of pilot from oncoming train

A train collides with a small plane that had crashed on the tracks
Officers drag the pilot away from a crashed plane seconds before a Metrolink train collides with the aircraft.
(LAPD)

When Los Angeles Police Officer Robert Sherock spotted the Metrolink train about a quarter mile away — barreling straight for him and his fellow officers and the pilot they were trying to free from a small plane crashed on the tracks — the entire scenario seemed unreal.

“This can’t really be happening,” Sherock remembered thinking.

But he also had another thought. “It’s not gonna stop.”

Springing into action with seconds to spare, Sherock and fellow officers Christopher Aboyte and Damien Castro wrenched the injured pilot from the cockpit of the plane and dragged him away from the tracks.

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“Go, go, go, go!” an officer screamed as the train crunched through the single-engine Cessna, which had lost power about 2 p.m. Sunday, forcing its pilot to make an emergency landing on the tracks near San Fernando and Osborne streets, just about a block from the LAPD Foothill police station.

Los Angeles Police Department officers in Pacoima rescued the pilot just moments before a train slammed into his downed aircraft Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

The pilot, a man in his 70s who has not been identified, was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

The LAPD posted video from one of the officers’ body-worn cameras to Twitter on Sunday evening, crediting the officers’ “heroism and quick action” with saving the pilot’s life.

By Monday, the video had racked up 2.8 million views.

The officers said they had just operated on instinct — doing their duty.

Sgt. Joseph Cavestany, the first on scene, said he had seen the plane going down while driving eastbound on Osborne, and immediately requested additional police units while calling for train traffic along the corridor to be halted.

Once on scene, the responding officers thought they would wait for medics to arrive to move the pilot carefully. Cavestany thought his request to Metrolink to halt trains would give them that time.

Then came the train — which the officers heard at a distance as crossing booms fell to block traffic.

Sherock said he, Aboyte and Castro, realizing the rapidly approaching threat, each grabbed a part of the pilot’s body and pulled him free.

“I just yelled as loud as I could ... ‘Just pull him out!’” Sherock said.

Cavestany said it wasn’t until the officers watched the body-camera footage later that they realized just how close they were to the oncoming train.

Seeing the entire episode play out on video, he said, was “a little surreal.”


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