SPARKS, Nev. — A deputy fire chief found an opening in traffic and slipped his single-engine plane into the gap after engine trouble forced him to land Monday on Interstate 80 near Reno.
The Cessna 172 suffered tail damage, but pilot Joe DuRousseau and two passengers were unhurt, Nevada State Trooper Chuck Allen said. He said there were no other injuries and did not appear to be any damage to vehicles.
"He apparently suffered some mechanical difficulties and essentially made an emergency landing on westbound I-80," Allen told The Associated Press shortly after the plane touched down about 10:15 a.m. a few miles north of Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
DuRousseau, the Reno Fire Department's division chief for operations, said he was trying to switch from one fuel tank to another when the engine went out and would not restart. He said traffic was light but credited the few motorists around with making the happy ending possible.
"I just saw an opening in the traffic and slowed down," DuRousseau told KRNV-TV in Reno.
"The cars behind slowed down to allow the plane to come in from behind. The cars ahead of us were going faster, so they moved forward. It created a nice spot to come in," he said.
The plane rolled about 100 feet before it came to a stop near the Sparks Boulevard exit overpass, where traffic was being rerouted Monday morning at least until officials for the Federal Aviation Administration arrived, Allen said.
The FAA registry shows DuRousseau owns the airplane built in 1957.
He said when the plane failed to restart, he determined the best option was to try to set it down on the interstate. The stretch of highway runs along railroad tracks and the Truckee River just east of the Sparks Marina and John Ascuaga's Nugget — a high-rise casino that sits near the Reno-Sparks border.
DuRousseau's job with the fire department includes work with arson investigators, including the case of the deadliest fire in Reno history when 12 people were killed in a Halloween night blaze at a downtown residential hotel in 2006.