A small plane crashed into a car parked on the shoulder of Interstate 15 in the Pala Mesa area of North County Saturday morning, killing one person and sending five others to local hospitals, authorities said.
The North County Fire Protection District transported five patients, three to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido and two to Sharp Memorial in Kearny Mesa. A female passenger in the right rear seat of the car was pronounced dead at the scene, spokesman John Buchanan said. Her identity was released as 38-year-old Antoinette Frances Isbelle. She was believed to be a San Diego resident.
The pilot of the Lancair IV, single-engine low-wing plane was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries described as severe trauma to his head.
He was identified by a CHP spokesman as Dennis Hogge, 62, of Jamul. His 50-year-old female passenger was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries and underwent surgery Saturday afternoon.
A motorist called the California Highway Patrol at 9:15 a.m. and reported witnessing a plane landing on northbound I-15, just south of State Route 76, the CHP reported.
The Nissan 4-door sedan was parked on the shoulder of the freeway so the driver could sync his Bluetooth with the car, Buchanan said. The plane skidded along the slow lane of the freeway for about 100 feet before crashing into the rear of the car, crushing the woman in the back seat. Truck driver Bill Senclair was one of the first people to arrive at the scene.
“There was me and two other people trying to get the door of the plane open to get the pilot out, he was bleeding real bad,” Senclair said.
Authorities say the impact to the sedan was so great the bumper was all the way to the back seat of the car. A friend of the 38-year-old woman sitting in the back who did not survive, was identified as 36-year-old Emily Boesmiller-Hoch. She was rushed to Sharp Memorial. She had to be cut out of the car.
“We had to extricate her from the car which took about 15-20 minutes to get her out of the car,” Buchanan said.
The driver, 42-year-old Aaron Meccann of Escondido, was taken to Palomar Hospital. His front seat passenger identified as 43-year-old Jason Soule sustained injuries to his right shoulder and right arm, CHP officials said.
Senclair said this was life changing for him.
“I did Special Forces Marine Corp, if people help you do it, it’s the way it should be,” he said.
Firefighters were able to contain a fuel leak before it caught fire since they arrived on scene from their station located less than a mile from the crash, Buchanan said.
”It’s amazing that there weren’t more injuries,” he said.
Federal Aviation Administration officials told first responders not to move the plane until they arrived to begin their investigation. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, according to Ian Gregor, public affairs manager of the FAA’s Pacific Division.
A large number of people witnessed the crash, Buchanan said. Many of them reported not hearing anything that would indicate engine trouble, but said the way the plane was banking to the east, then to the west before hitting the ground indicated it was in some kind of trouble.
The Lancair IV is a homebuilt propjet aircraft with retracting landing gear that seats four including the pilot, and ceased production in 2012. It appeared from the crash scene that the landing gear had not been deployed, according to an official. According to the Associated Press, a former major league catcher says he once owned the plane involved in a fatal crash on a Southern California freeway, and he had safely landed it on the same highway 16 years ago. Matt Nokes told The Associated Press that he sold the plane years ago, but he knew the current owner who crashed Saturday on Interstate 15. Nokes says Hogge is an outstanding pilot and plane builder.
Nokes was piloting the Lancair IV on its second flight in February 2000 when the engine quit and he safely landed on the busy freeway.
Three lanes on the northbound side of the freeway remained open, but the CHP issued a SigAlert for the area, warning motorists to stay away as traffic problems were expected to last for hours. Traffic on I-15 was backed up for miles in both directions and surface streets in the area were also clogged.
The NTSB arrived on scene late Saturday afternoon and removed the plane and car wreckage. All lanes on I-15 and SR-76 have been reopened as of 5:30 p.m., according to CHP spokesman Chris Parent.