(CNN) — When his small plane’s engine failed three times, Vincent Fraser had no choice but to make an emergency landing in mountainous terrain just south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
GoPro video of his perilous landing in western North Carolina shows Fraser maneuvering his single-engine plane under power lines in the middle lane of a freeway, with cars moving in two lanes on either side.
Fraser, who was flying with his father-in-law, spoke of his harrowing July 3 landing Monday morning on CNN’s “New Day”.
“The only thing that really went through my mind was I had to protect my father-in-law, and I had to protect the people on the ground, and I was trying to do the best I could without hurting anyone,” Fraser told CNN’s John Berman on Brianna Keilar.
They were over Fontana Lake when they first had engine failure, and Fraser couldn’t see any roads due to the trees and mountainous landscape.
“So originally there were no options,” Fraser said. At one point he thought a bridge in the distance was their “best and only chance.” But they were too low for the bridge to land, and there were too many vehicles on the bridge to attempt it without serious risk of hurting or killing anyone, he explained.
So the next option was the river in front of the bridge, which Fraser said he was determined to land on when “by some miracle, that highway… came just to my left because you couldn’t see it before because of the mountains and the valleys.” and the trees.”
Fortunately, Fraser said he had enough altitude to steer the plane into the highway at the last minute.
Video from Fraser’s GoPro camera shows him landing in the middle of the road as traffic passes on either side of the plane.
“They must have been so terrified,” Fraser said of the people on the ground.
Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran praised the landing in a Facebook post: “What an EXCELLENT job and no injuries. AMAZING.”
“There were so many things that could have been catastrophic, but they didn’t happen,” Cochran said.
A mechanic checked his plane and it was towed up the mountain to a higher, longer road, Fraser said, and took off off the highway three days later.
The start was “terrifying,” Fraser said, but he made it a maritime target.
“I went back to when I was in the Marine Corps and made it my mission to get off that mountain. And so you know, I knew the plane was safe, I knew the plane was checked out, I knew I the training,” said Fraser. But his nerves were raw.
“Honestly, I just wanted to turn it off, leave, throw up. You just can’t believe this is actually happening.”
But the start was a success. Mission accomplished.