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John King, 62, identified as pilot killed in Sylmar plane crash

Pilot killed Wednesday when plane crashed in Sylmar identified 00:19

Authorities Friday identified the pilot of a small plane who died when the aircraft crashed alongside the westbound 210 Freeway in the Sylmar area.

John King, 62, died at the scene of the crash, which occurred around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to the coroner's office. King was the only person aboard the plane, Eva Lee Ngai of the FAA said.

Records revealed that the plane was built in 1965, with a valid certificate for flight.

The plane landed in the middle of trees on an embankment along the freeway and did not hit any vehicles. The crash did not spark any flames, and narrowly avoided a group of power lines along that side of the road.

"Fortunately it was not on the 210 Freeway, because things would've obviously been a lot worse," Los Angeles Police Department Captain James Townsend.

"We did not get any information to tell us that the power lines were involved in the airplane crash," said LAFD Deputy Chief Trevor Richmond. "There wasn't any fire, there was a small fuel leak that was contained by fire resources." 

He continued to note that the crews created a small berm in the immediate location of the leak to prevent it from flowing down onto the freeway.

The crash occurred around four miles north of Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, where it departed from at 12:20 p.m., crashing eight minutes later.

Locals have called for the airport to shut down several times in the past, and most recently in January after a pilot crashed onto the train tracks in the area, where he was barely rescued before his aircraft was struck by an oncoming train.

Pacoima Beautiful is one group hoping to shut down the airport. Teodora Reyes, one of the many locals that make up the non-profit organization, spoke with CBS reporters Wednesday evening, where she detailed that since as of 2020, 75 crashes had been related to Whiteman Airport, according to the NTSB.

Adding the three most recent crashes to happen since 2020, brings that total to 78.

"The concern is for the safety of the most impacted members," Reyes said, "who deal with the noise pollution and fear of an airplane falling on their home in the middle of the night."

"I just saw that Skymaster fall out of the sky there," said an air traffic controller over the airport's radio transmission after the crash. "He was at 2100 [feet], and then just descended quickly. At first I thought it was a bird but it was actually him going down."

L.A. City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez issued a statement following the crash on Wednesday evening, which read: 

"Tragically, another life cut short by plane crash, and my heartfelt condolences to the victim's family. Pending confirmation of its departure, the frequency of these incidents should warrant an immediate closure and investigation over the private operations at Whiteman Airport out of respect for the lives of the victims, their families and our community."

Crews on the scene planned to move the plane from the embankment into an empty field adjacent to the crash site by crane, where NTSB and FAA investigators will work to determine the cause.

Witnesses on the scene detailed the moments during and after the crash occurred. 

"All of the sudden you heard like this 'shhh... BOOM,'" said one woman who rushed to where the plane crashed. "When we went over there we didn't see smoke. Nothing was on fire."

Another man who was working at a group home just hundreds of yards from the scene of the crash also ran to the site. 

"We heard the boom and boss said, 'There's a plane crash, see if you can help,'" he told CBS reporters. "So I ran over there and jumped the fence. There was nothing we could do."

The two lanes on the westbound 210 Freeway closest to the crash site were closed as investigators surveyed the scene.

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