Monday, June 5, 2023

4 LAPD officers are honored for their heroic rescue of a pilot whose plane crashed on the railroad tracks in Pacoima.

Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant. Joseph Cavestany was driving his police car north on Osborne Street through Pacoima on January 9 when he noticed something unusual: Directly in front of him, about a mile away, a large white object was falling from the sky.

“He was big and white, about 50 feet off the ground,” he said Wednesday.

Whiteman Airport was also close by. Deciding that the object must be an aircraft in distress, Cavestani watched as it dived almost exactly into its path and crashed at the intersection of Osborne Road and San Fernando Road. He ordered it to the crash site.

Minutes later, Cavestani saw three of the officers he supervised pull an injured pilot out of a wrecked aircraft lying on the railroad tracks. One of the officers’ body-worn cameras captured the moment an oncoming train crashed into the plane seconds later, destroying it.

“It was very surreal,” Cavestani said after seeing the train and realizing it would not stop. “I was like, ‘Dude, is this really happening?’

Cavestany and three others – Officers Robert Scherock, Damien Castro and Christopher Aboyt – were honored for their swift actions at a ceremony Wednesday at the Montagu Charter Academy in Arlet, a few miles from the crash site.

Congressman Tony Cardenas, representing the San Fernando Valley Northeast, presented the four with certificates acknowledging their dramatic rescue of the pilot.

“That person would probably be dead today,” Cardenas said of the downed pilot. But, thank God, he’s alive.

Within hours of the crash, video of what happened was widely circulated around the country, with many expressing shock at how close the train came to killing the pilot and possibly the officers trying to get it out.

Speaking to reporters at the scene that day, the train conductor said he had received no warning of an aircraft on the tracks. Metrolink officials told the Southern California newsgroup that they could not confirm the conductor’s claims at the time of the crash. But a spokesman said trains could be stopped within five minutes of receiving such warnings from dispatchers.

Such a warning may have come too late that day: Cavestany said that about five minutes elapsed between the time he saw the plane crash and the train. The first officer on the scene said he called the dispatchers as soon as he realized the plane was on the tracks.

Despite this, local residents have complained about security problems for years. Many want the airport to close permanently.

The Supervisory Board made it clear this week that it can do just that. The board voted to study what the airport closure would mean for the area.

Cavestani has been patrolling the Pacoima area for over two decades. According to him, during this time he personally responded to at least five plane crashes around Whiteman.

Accidents often happen on nearby streets, he said, as pilots try to pick the best and safest makeshift runway they can find.

The latest crash right on active railroad tracks was apparently the first for the veteran officers to react.

Cavestani said it took him about an hour to process what he saw.

Okay, this really just happened, he thought to himself.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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