A small plane crashed into a hillside less than a mile west of the Oceanside Municipal Airport early Tuesday, killing the pilot and severely injuring his passenger, who was trapped for about five hours before rescuers arrived, a police official said.
The single-engine plane was spotted by a motorist around 7:15 a.m. on the side of a steep hillside above the eastbound lanes of California 76 near Canyon Drive, said Oceanside police spokesman Tom Bussey.
When emergency crews got to the wreckage, they found two men inside.
The pilot was dead and the passenger, who appeared to have suffered broken bones and facial injuries, had “some severe injuries but was coherent,” Bussey told Fox 5.
“He told us they were up there for about five hours,” he said. That means the crash likely occurred between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
Bussey said it was not known if the pilot had crashed after taking off from the airport or while trying to land.
Because the crash site was so far above the freeway, no one apparently saw the plane until a driver happened to look up, Bussey said.
“A lady on her way to work saw [the plane] on the side of the hill and … called it in,” he said.
Around 7:45 a.m., Oceanside police put out a statement advising motorists to avoid the area and said traffic was being diverted to Mission Road.
Bussey said officials were concerned the plane could slide down the hillside onto the freeway below. Officials said the freeway lanes would be closed for several hours.
A sheriff’s rescue helicopter crew helped hoist the injured man from the wreckage, said Lt. Dave Perkins of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. The patient was flown off the hill and transferred to another helicopter to be taken to a hospital for treatment, he said.
No information about the victims was released and the exact circumstances of the crash were not immediately known.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Traffic Safety Board will be investigating, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.
According to an FAA database, the fixed-wing Piper Warrior was manufactured around 1974 and is registered to a Vista man.