DEL MAR, Calif. — A small plane landed on Interstate 5 just east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds Tuesday afternoon, prompting authorities to shut down several lanes of the busy freeway.
The single-engine Piper PA-32 landed shortly after noon on the freeway’s southbound lanes near Via de la Valle, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and California Highway Patrol.
At around 4:30 p.m., technicians loaded the small plane onto a large flatbed truck and towed it to Montgomery Field, where it will be investigated by the FAA and NTSB.
The plane originally departed from Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport and began to experience mechanical issues while in the air in the Del Mar area, California Highway Patrol Capt. Taylor Cooper said in a statement.
“The pilot attempted to land the plane at a nearby field but was unable,” the statement read. “The pilot landed the plane in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5, just south of Via De La Valle. During the landing the plane struck several vehicles.”
As the plane landed, the aircraft hit a Kia sedan and one of its wings became lodged in the back of an Audi SUV. The nose of the plane came to rest on the median in the center of the freeway, and debris were scattered across the road.
Two people in the vehicles that were hit suffered minor injuries, City of San Diego spokesman José Ysea told FOX 5 in an email. SDFD paramedics treated the patients and took them to Scripps La Jolla. The pilot and passenger were unhurt.
SDFD’s hazardous materials team arrived to clean up a small fuel spill and offload about 30 gallons of fuel from the plane, Ysea said.
FOX 5’s Jaime Chambers spoke with a woman who was driving to San Diego with her husband to celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary when they felt something hit their sedan.
“Glass shattered everywhere. All of a sudden we just see the plane in front of us,” Sarah Tribett said. “We were scared out of our minds. I felt like there was so much adrenaline that I didn’t realize at first if I was hurt.”
She said she and her husband both escaped serious injury.
“The people that were driving behind us drove by us after and let us know that it literally landed on top of our car,” Tribett said. “Fuel all over the back of our back seat. All of my clothes are soaked and there’s just glass everywhere.”
Information about what led the pilot to land on the freeway was not immediately available. CHP and FAA are investigating.
There have been at least four other incidents involving planes landing on freeways in San Diego County since 2013.