What started as a leisurely lunchtime plane ride to an island of the coast of Southern California on Tuesday turned into chaos as the pilot made a split-second decision to land on the freeway.
Pilot Andrew Cho and one other passenger escaped the single-engine plane without injuries minutes before it burst into flames around 12:30 p.m. on the 91 Freeway in Corona, about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Cho told NBC Los Angeles he took his Piper PA-32 out to Catalina Island, off the coast of Orange County, and on his return, he started preparing to land at Corona Municipal Airport.
"As I made the adjustments to the engine, to slow down the engine, all I can say is it didn’t respond normally," Cho told NBC Los Angeles. "We were also losing altitude very quickly."
Cho said he made the decision to land on the freeway because he could see gaps large enough to land the plane in between cars. He said he was afraid to try to land at the airport out of fear of crashing into a nearby building.
Video of the crash landing shows light traffic on the 91 Freeway when the plane slams into the road before skidding into the shoulder and sending a black plume of smoke into the air.
Cho told NBC Los Angeles he and his passenger managed to escape after kicking open a door of the plane. Moments later, the plane caught on fire, the video showed.
The Corona Fire Department told NBC Los Angeles firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the flames.
California Highway Patrol officials said at a press conference the plane collided with a pickup truck with three passengers inside, but all three occupants were able to get out of the car and were uninjured.
Cho told NBC Los Angeles the crash was scary, but he was "ecstatic" to be alive.
“I can really say that there’s not a scratch on me or my passenger, we both literally walked away with no injuries,” Cho said.