A Sepulveda man who said he moved near Van Nuys Airport "because it's like an air show every day" got an unwelcome visitor from the sky Tuesday when a small plane crashed into his backyard swimming pool, slightly injuring the two men on board.
"It was a lucky shot," Los Angeles Police Officer Amby Owens said. "It missed a house and everything else and came straight down into a pool. It could have caught fire if it hadn't landed there."
Pilot Charles Pickett, 46, and his son, Larry, 25, both of North Hollywood, suffered cuts and bruises. During an interview at Granada Hills Community Hospital, the elder Pickett said the plane malfunctioned during takeoff.
"The plane just didn't have enough power," the pilot said. "I knew it wasn't going to make it, so I looked for a backyard. . . . It never went through my mind that I wasn't going to walk away from it."
Carl C. Scharfenberg, who owns the house in the 16600 block of Parthenia Streeet, said he was emptying leaves into a trash can 20 feet from the pool at about 5:30 p.m. when "a plane sounded real close and you could tell it wasn't running right."
"I just couldn't believe it," he said.
Scharfenberg watched as the single-engine Cessna 152 II skidded off his garden shed into the shallow end of his 20-by-40 foot pool. The aircraft came to rest nose down in three feet of water.
He said he helped the occupants walk up the pool's steps while his wife, Lois, called the 911 emergency number.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were attempting to determine the cause of the crash, and Los Angeles fire crews spread fire-retardant foam across the pool.
"One of the fellows in the plane said it just wasn't his week," Scharfenberg, 65, said as children from the neighborhood peered over a wooden fence at the wreckage.
"How will they get this out of here?" asked Lois Scharfenberg, 61.
Scharfenberg, a former Navy flight mechanic who works as an inspector for Lockheed California in Burbank, explained that he bought the house, which is a mile north of the runway, eight years ago because, "flying has been my life and I like to be near the airport."
Would the crash sour his passion for life near the airport?
"No way," he said. "This will never happen again."