Long Beach, CA Plane Crashes Onto Freeway, Nov 1987


Long Beach, Calif. (AP) - A light plane crashed onto a freeway crowded with holiday travelers, killing a passenger, critically injuring the pilot and causing a five-car pileup, authorities said.
Traffic was backed up for 10 miles after the single-engine plane smashed into the concrete center divider on Interstate 405 at 6:43 p.m. Sunday. But authorities marveled that the plane missed cars and there weren't any serious injuries reported among the motorists involved in accidents.
"I knew we were going to get hit," said BETH KUECKER, 35, of Laguna Beach, who was a passenger in a car damaged either by bits of wreckage or the force of the fireball that erupted from the plane.
"I looked up to the right and saw the plane turn sideways," MS. KUECKER said. "I put my hand up in front of my eyes. I thought we were going to die."
MS. KUECKER and the driver, SANDRA SISSON, 46, escaped unharmed, and another driver doused the flames with a fire extinguisher.
The Piper Malibu PA-46 crashed about a half-mile from the Long Beach Municipal Airport after the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit.
Signal Hill police Officer Steve Owens watched from a nearby hill as the plane "nose dived into the freeway" and "exploded in a big ball of fire."
The freeway was closed in both directions near the crash scene, 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, and traffic backed up for 10 miles both north and south.
Killed was the pilot JOHN SPIESMAN, 62, of Los Gatos.
Co-Pilot DENNIS PABOOJIAN, 46, of Cupertino, was in critical condition in Long Beach Memorial Hospital with burns over 65% of his body.

Standard Speaker Hazleton Pennsylvania 1987-11-30