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511 News Off-duty Fire Captain
- Mar 07, 2018 -

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“Mayday, mayday”

Capt. Meffert, who was still on the phone with his dad during the incident, quickly hung up after telling him he had been hit by a 

plane. While running toward the plane, he noticed a head pop up. “Mrs. Pisano was able to get out of the plane, which is a 

miracle in itself because that plane only has one door; it’s on the passenger side and when they get in, they pull the lever that 

locks the door. There’s no way to get into the plane from the outside once it’s locked.” Because of the force of the crash, the 

door undid itself and Janan Pisano was able to push it upand get out. “When I was running, I kept thinking, ; This whole plane is 

on fire; they’re dead. And here’s this head that pops up and I’m like, “Well, if she can be there, I can definitely get there.” Capt. 

Meffert ran toward the tail section of the plane and went by the fuselage to reach Janan. At that time, she was still trying to get 

her husband, Frank, out of the plane. “I grabbed her and told her, “I got him, I got him” I was able to get her to the back of the 

plane and I came back for Frank.”


He had to untangle Frank’s foot that was stuck in between the throttle and the seat. Eventually, he was able to pull him out 

safely and started rendering aid. “It’s just like how we’re trained. I started asking questions: “What’s your name, where did you 

come from?” I was thinking they came from a different airport but Frank said he came from John Wayne. He said the right 

engine of the plane malfunctioned and he called a mayday.” Capt. Meffert said there were also five good Samaritans who came 

to the Pisano’s aid, some running up with fire extinguishers from their cars. By chance, there was also an ICU nurse that had 

just gotten off that morning and a nurse practitioner driving on the freeway when the crash occurred. Another good Samaritan, 

who was on the other side of the freeway, jumped over the wall and took off his shirt to use as the initial bandage for Janan’s 

head. “It was amazing. Seeing the nurse in her scrubs and the care that was being given to Mrs. Pisano, I was able to then 

focus more on Frank and started going back and forth a little to get information.”


The crash rig at the airport experienced a response delay because the automatic fence would not open, Capt. Meffert 

explained. “The delay wasn’t a big enough delay where they would’ve beat me to the plane, but the first firefighter who came off 

the rig could see I was rendering aid and I explained to him that I’m a captain over in Catalina. He didn’t know me from Adam, 

what type of work I do or my skill level but the next thing I know he opened up the bin and started throwing me medical 

equipment.” Capt. Meffert was able to focus on Frank as the nurses on scene tended to Janan.


“When EMS arrived on scene, I was able to get Frank’s vital signs and then I stayed and helped; I helped backboard him and 

lifted him up and put him on the gurney.” At that point, Capt. Meffert’s job was done. What happened next was out of the 

ordinary for a first responder.

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