Video of the harrowing rescue shows the officers pulling the bloodied man to safety seconds before the commuter train, blaring its horn, smashed the Cessna 172 into pieces.
The plane crashed around 2:10 p.m. Sunday, shortly after takeoff from Whiteman Airport in the San Fernando Valley community of Pacoima, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The timestamp on a police officer's body camera shows the train smashing the plane at 2:15 p.m.
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The plane had landed on the tracks at a railroad crossing just blocks from the LAPD's Foothills Division station, and officers were on the scene almost immediately.
CBSN Los Angeles said four officers managed to extricate the pilot and drag him onto the pavement. The station identified them as Damien Castro, Christopher Aboyte, Robert Sherock and Sgt. Joseph Cavestany.
It's unclear how much time passed before authorities realized the plane was on the tracks, or exactly when police notified the railroad, but the officers realized there was no time to spare.
"I had requested Metrolink to cease all train activity, but apparently that didn't happen," Cavestany said.
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The pilot, the only person on board, was transported in unknown condition, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. No other injuries were reported.
"Seeing what happened, I'm grateful to be alive. I'm grateful the pilot survived as well," Sherock said.
Metrolink subsequently halted train service and road traffic was detoured in the area about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.