A small plane was trying to return to a Southern California airport after declaring an emergency when it crashed on a busy freeway, erupting into a ball of flames and smoke.

The pilot of the plane declared a mayday and told an air traffic controller one engine had failed before the aircraft crashed on a Southern California freeway and burst into flames.

The exchange was captured on a recording of air traffic controller communications, posted on the website LiveATC.net.

Federal officials said the plane had declared an emergency shortly after taking off Friday morning from John Wayne Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration said the Cessna 310 aircraft crashed along Interstate 405 as it was attempting to return to the airport.

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The pilot shouted "mayday" four times in less than a minute and said he was trying to make it back to the airport.

He also told air traffic controllers, "I lost my right engine."

Orange County Fire Capt. Larry Kurtz said the two people aboard the plane - a man and woman in their 50s and 60s - were taken to the hospital with traumatic injuries.

-AP