A 50-year-old man was seriously injured in a small plane crash in north Phoenix Tuesday afternoon, fire officials said.
The single-engine Mooney M20 crashed and ignited into flames near 31st Avenue and Deer Valley Road, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The intersection is a few miles west of the Deer Valley Airport.
The man, who was the pilot and only person on board, suffered second- and third-degree burns and was transported to an area hospital in critical condition, according to the Phoenix Fire Department.
Local television helicopter footage showed a slew of emergency vehicles in the area and what appeared to be the charred remains of a small plane.
The intersection remained closed late Tuesday afternoon.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, Gregor said.
It generally takes the board a year or more to determine the cause of a crash, he said.
Elton Dan, who lives near where the aircraft came down, said he heard the crash, ran out and saw the plane burning.
“I just heard a loud ‘thud.’ It shook my house,” Dan said. “I’d seen the smoke to the east, I ran out to here and the plane was already in flames.”
Dan said he saw some passersby attempting to pull the pilot to safety.
“A fire tornado started forming, it just rose up and then ‘boom,’ it exploded everywhere and scattered,” he said, adding there were several explosions afterward.
Dan said small aircraft fly over his neighborhood frequently each day because of his proximity to the nearby airport.
Phoenix resident Christina Childs said her husband, Kareem Childs, helped pull the pilot from the wreckage of the helicopter. Childs and her family live just a block away from where the crash occurred, she said.
“He was coming from Barry Goldwater (HighSchool), because he works for the school district, and he said he’d seen the plane teetering, then he [saw] it crash, I think. Then there were two or three guys from the motorcycle place over here, and they all came in together and then within a minute of them pulling it out, it blew up,” Childs said.
Childs said her husband witnessed the injuries that the pilot sustained firsthand, saying the man was badly burned.
“Kareem said the guy wasn’t saying anything — he wasn’t crying, he wasn’t screaming.”
Jackie Waldecker, whose husband also helped pull the pilot out of the plane, said her husband truly exhibited courageous tendencies in a high-pressure situation.
“It was remarkable, but it’s what you would hope you would do. It’s what I wanted to do but as a mother, I was too afraid to do it.”
Waldecker said her husband helped save the pilot’s life.
“He got out, ran towards the scene and he extracted a person that otherwise would have died,” Waldecker said.
“He’s absolutely a hero. He’s always been my hero, and it’s good that we all can see that.”
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