Plane crashes on Highway 99 in Modesto; pilot suffers minor injuries

An airplane crashed on Highway 99 Friday night near Crows Landing Road in Modesto, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Tom Olsen, public information officer with the CHP, said the pilot suffered minor injuries and was the sole passenger aboard. He said no vehicles were struck, although the plane “did sideswipe something.”

Olsen said his department received a mayday call from the pilot at 7:48 p.m. He said the plane went down shortly after on the highway near Crows Landing Road.

The plane was on fire when the Modesto Fire Department arrived, and firefighters extinguished the flames.

“They did a superb job,” Olsen said.

The pilot, flying a Piper Dakota, was described as a 59-year-old man from Santa Cruz, Olsen said.

The southbound lanes of the freeway were closed for more than three hours as crews investigated and dealt with the wreckage. Southbound travelers were advised to use Highway 33, Interstate 5 or any of the roads east of Modesto. The northbound lanes remained open

The CHP announced that one of the southbound lanes was reopened at around 11:15 p.m., starting the flow of traffic again. The plane, which was destroyed in the crash and subsequent fire, was towed off the roadway. Olsen said the Federal Aviation Administration has been notified.

He said there has been no determination at this point why the plane crashed.

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John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.