SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Authorities have identified the couple, whose small plane crashed on the San Diego (405) Freeway, just short of John Wayne Airport in Irvine.
Francis Pisano, 62, and his wife, 55-year-old Janan Pisano, both of Coto de Caza, were taken to Orange County Global Medical in critical conditions with spinal fractures and cuts after the crash.
In a statement, the Pisanos’ children thanked strangers and first repsonders for saving their parents’ lives.
The wing of the Cessna 310 clipped the hood of John Meffert’s vehicle. He is a fire captain who was off duty at the time.
He quickly jumped into action and pulled the couple away from the wreckage. “The wife, that was the passenger, I see her face and head pop up out of the passenger side. If she could be there, I thought I could be there,” Meffert recalled.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the couple broke their backs when their plane slammed into a median on I-405 last Friday.
“Mr. and Mrs. Pisano are doing surprisingly well considering everything they’ve been through. And the family, I think, is overjoyed that they’re alive and recovering and being treated. And the prognosis is very positive for a full recovery,” said Jeff Corless of the Orange County Global Medical Center. “If it wasn’t for all of the people who came together to bring them from the wreckage to safety so they could be treated by first responders, they may not be alive today.”
State records show Francis Pisano as the owner of the Cessna 310 that experienced engine problems just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. Pisano evidently tried to return to the airport just after takeoff, but instead crashed onto the freeway.
One of the plane’s engines lost power, so Pisano attempted to pilot it back to the airport westbound over the freeway, but the aircraft lost altitude and its tail clipped a center divider wall, according to the CHP.
The Cessna continued westbound before colliding with off-duty city of Avalon firefighter John Meffert’s 2005 Mitsubishi. In the southbound lanes, the plane also collided with a 2008 Toyota with Uber driver Blackstone Hamilton, 51, behind the wheel.
Ji-Yong Dong, 23, of Ontario, crashed a 2006 Toyota into the plane’s debris in the southbound lanes as did northbound motorist John Triplett, 69, of Folsom, who was driving a 2008 Toyota.
But no one on the ground was hurt.
Francis Pisano radioed that he had lost one of his engines just after takeoff and then made a frantic mayday call to air traffic controllers seconds before the plane came down on the freeway north of the MacArthur Boulevard exit.
“We got a mayday! We got a mayday! … I can’t make it back to the airport,” he could be heard saying.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)