By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A small plane crash-landed on a freeway in Orange County, California, on Friday morning, critically injuring two people on board and snarling traffic on a major north-south artery through the area, authorities said.
The fiery crash was captured on cell-phone video by a driver and broadcast on local KABC-TV. It showed the twin-engine Cessna 310 as it passed low over the northbound side of the San Diego (405) freeway in southern California before slamming into the ground on the southbound lanes.
The aircraft, which appeared to be rapidly losing power, is seen leveling out slightly before hitting the ground and bursting into flames about 1,000 feet from a runway at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the pilot declared an emergency shortly after taking off from John Wayne airport and was trying to return there when the plane crashed at about 9:35 a.m. local time.
Captain Larry Kurtz of the Orange County Fire Authority told KABC that the plane clipped a car on the freeway immediately before crashing, but the occupants of the vehicle were not hurt.
Televised images showed the wreckage resting in the southbound lanes of the freeway immediately adjacent to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, covered in fire-retardant foam and surrounded by police and firefighters.
The freeway, the main north-south route through southern Orange County, was shut in both directions for about an hour before the northbound side and one southbound lane were reopened. Still, traffic remained backed up for miles in both directions some two hours after the incident.
Arrivals were halted at the airport for about 45 minutes after the crash, and officials there advised travelers to arrive several hours early for flights.
An Orange County sheriff's spokesman said that two people, identified only as a male and female, had been pulled from the wreckage of the plane and were being taken to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
The plane was still on the freeway several hours after the crash and investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration and John Wayne Airport were said to be en route to the scene.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)