Pilot Pulled From Crashed Cessna Moments Before Train Destroyed It


In what turned out to be a miraculous ending to a really bad day, LAPD officers pulled an injured pilot from a crashed Cessna 172 moments before it was struck and destroyed by a commuter train. Mark Jenkins, the 70-year-old pilot, was pulled from the wreckage of the aircraft after he crash landed on railroad tracks near Whiteman Airport, which is located in the north Los Angeles suburbs near Burbank Airport. Police body camera footage revealed that several officers acted quickly to free and remove Jenkins just seconds before the Metrolink train obliterated it.

The aircraft had just taken off from Whiteman when it touched down on the tracks in Pacoima at the intersection of San Fernando Road and Osborne Streets, the LAPD said. The tracks in that area run parallel to Whiteman’s 30/12 single runway and according to an LAPD spokesperson, the Skyhawk lost power just after takeoff around 2 p.m. Monday. The nosewheel may have been sheared off by track ties, causing a violent touchdown. The airplane appeared to remain upright, but was seriously damaged. The pilot’s step-son-in-law, Dan Mortensen, told authorities that Jenkins was an Air Force fighter pilot and an experienced GA pilot. The two were partners in the 1967 172H, according to Mortensen, and have had the airplane for more than 20 years. Jenkins was the only occupant.

Jenkins was listed in stable condition on Monday evening and suffered facial and other injuries, but is expected to recover. “He’s suffered pretty significant damage to his face, a lot of broken bones. He’s also got broken ribs,” said Mortensen. “What went through my head all night last night was what if they couldn’t cut through the seat belt in time or couldn’t get the door open because it was jammed from the impact. All it could’ve taken is another two seconds and at least he would have been killed, probably with certainty, I think,” Mortensen told Los Angeles’ NBC News 4. Mortensen told the station that he believes Jenkins chose to land on the tracks to save lives on the ground. “The down side to that, I think, possibly a railroad tie or something, ripped off the nose wheel on touch down and sent the nose down into the ground, which caused a tremendous forward-slamming force so he hit his face and upper body pretty hard,” the station reported Mortensen saying.

This bystander video, shot by 21-year-old Luis Jimenez, shows how violent the impact was. Bits of debris are hurled dozens of feet and the photographer was struck by one, according to news reports.

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  1. Wow, a miracle that LAPD was there, and had multiple officers in 4 units, were strong enough to pull him free, and in time. That’s one lucky pilot! Hope he makes a full recovery.

    • I’ve read he had many major injuries, mostly to his face unfortunately, but he’s doing well and should make a full recovery thankfully. That’s three leaves on that 4 leaf clover he was probably carrying gone….

  2. I’m one that normally doesn’t seem the YouTube catnip, but I broke down and had to search these videos out. This pilot owes the officers a huge debt of gratitude.

  3. Wow. It looks like they pulled him out through the windshield opening. Great job by the officers!

    On a side note: Let’s see the NTSB examine *this* wreckage for the cause of power loss.

    • Freshly departed from Whiteman airport. Lands on railroad tracks busting up not only himself but the plane, especially noticeable is the damage to the wings. Then the train takes another wack at it, making it a write-off for sure. Good thing none of the bystanders were smokers.
      NTSB can probably solve this from 3000 miles away, fuel receipts or the lack thereof.

  4. BTW Paul, thanks for getting more facts and context for the story as opposed to being the first to publish this piece. Sometimes we need to acknowledge better reporting and that first doesn’t always mean better.

  5. I do not understand why people still don’t invest in shoulder belts. This man would have suffered far less injury for a relatively inexpensive upgrade.
    Glad he is ok, true testament to the LAPD there.

    • That’s the first thing we did when we bought our Skyhawk. But I don’t know if he had them or not, cannot tell from any video I’ve seen. But probably not.

    • And if the shoulder belt got caught up and he was unable to exit the airplane, they’d be some one here saying “see, that’s why I don’t wear shoulder belts”

      Pilots can’t win for losing.

  6. Try explaining that to your insurance company. “My airplane got run over by a train!”

    Seriously, glad he is going to be okay, and kudos to the LAPD officers who were literally risking their own lives to get him to safety.

  7. The more I look at the video, the more I wonder why there was no ambulance or medical people on site. Police had time to send at least 4 units and to set up the roadblocks. Police were fine just letting the pilot just sit there and bleed. They only helped when the train arrived. Still no medical staff or ambulance seen.

    • According to other reports, the plane crashed at approximately 2:10PM local time, and the train hit it five minutes later.

      I’m not a policeman, nor did I sleep in a Holiday Inn last night, but it seems to me the police were working as a trained team. Instead of having everyone bum-rush the plane, some cops were setting up a perimeter while others worked on freeing the pilot.

      It seems to me that getting four units on site, setting up road blocks and getting the pilot out of the plane within 300 seconds is a pretty good response time.

    • LAPD said they happened to have three units quite close by when the call came in. A fourth must have been pretty near, too. The ambo came along a little later.

    • TV evening news described the police station as being “across the corner”. Looking at the map – if the pilot did an almost straight ahead / 30degree left of centerline after engine failure – it puts the plane on the Intersection of road and rail Police station is 2 blocks from the intersection.

    • Ambulances are on a longer response time because of “golden” state budgetary problems and hospitals full of covid patients.

  8. This can’t be good for local support for Whiteman. There was uproar after the last crash on a local street, in 2020.

  9. Also of note is that no fuel exploded. I know it’s not a given that fuel would explode on contact. Seems amazing still

    • Looking at the video, both wings looked largely intact before the train got involved. The train struck and presumably heavily damaged the outer portion of the left wing and removed the empennage behind the cabin area. There is no fuel in either of those areas in a 172. So yeah, doesn’t seem all that amazing to me that there was no explosion.

      • 0:21 second mark, there is a liquid on the ground below the left wing. Also looks like the liquid is dripping from the left wing.

  10. Not to make light of the situation but could you imagine surviving a plane crash only to get hit by a train?

  11. Whilst I’m absolutely amazed this man survived not one but two life threatening instances in a row(!!!), I can’t help but question the “they were there only 5 minutes” claim. They had put caution tape up, and did clear the area which are both time consuming jobs. It makes me (and a lot of others on the second posted video) wonder why they didn’t contact the train depot to have that train stopped. Surely cops have a direct line for that sort of thing, right? I know there are blue boxes right at the crossing to contact train dispatch (at least they’re on the LIRR/Metro North crossings in NY/NJ) that allows for this. Not knocking the LAPD for what they did accomplish, I just can’t understand why that wasn’t done, it might have saved more lives if that train had derailed…..which thankfully it didn’t look like it did.

  12. Can you imagine if the handful of cops around the plane hadn’t gotten clear with the pilot before the train barreled through? It could’ve been a bloodbath. No fire. No one hugely hurt by flying debris. It’s all pretty incredible. My only lingering question: what happened to the train? Did it stop? Did it continue on its route with bits of aluminum in its teeth? Hmmmm.