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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO (KTVI) - Federal investigators want to know why a small plane crashed just feet from a highway in Maryland Heights, just moments before the start of the Thursday morning rush.
"We received a phone call from a motorist saying that they had seen a plane go down right here alongside the highway,” explained Pattonville Fire Battalion Chief Dave Dotson.
He said the small plane burned at 4:55 a.m. Thursday.
"A few minutes after that, we received a phone call from the pilot himself."
Firefighters from Pattonville, Monarch, Central County and Maryland Heights fire districts rushed to the Page Avenue Extension east of the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Maryland Heights Police Chief Bob Carson said the pilot was alone on the plane and had mechanical problems right after leaving Creve Coeur Airport.
"He circled around and was trying to come back to the airport and land."
It took less than 10 minutes for his twin-engine Cessna to crash and burn, just on the other side of the highway from the airport. The pilot was injured, but alive.
"He was able to get out of the plane before it caught fire."
Chief Carson explained the bulk of the wreckage did not mark the point of impact.
"He actually impacted just south of the bike path and rolled over down into the embankment."
What was left of the plane finally rested a few feet from the driving lanes. But, the pilot not only lived. He helped investigators.
"The pilot is conscious and is able to answer all the questions,” Carson explained.
No one else was hurt. The pilot was finally safe. But, first responders stayed on edge while waiting for investigators from the Federal Aviation Administraion and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"Cars buzzing by making sure they don't hit a fire truck or a firefighter working out on the scene or the cops,” Battalion Chief Dotson glanced over the roadway, cars squeezing by the scene.
After a crash that took moments, the rescuers braced to look over their shoulders all day long.