2 Rescued After Small Plane Crashes Into Maryland Power Lines

The pair suffered "serious injuries" and have been taken to local trauma centers.
A small plane rests on live power lines after crashing on Nov. 27, 2022, in Montgomery Village, a northern suburb of Gaithersburg, Md.
A small plane rests on live power lines after crashing on Nov. 27, 2022, in Montgomery Village, a northern suburb of Gaithersburg, Md.
AP Photo/Tom Brenner

The pilot and passenger aboard a small airplane that crashed into power lines in Maryland on Sunday evening have been rescued.

The pair suffered “serious injuries,” including hypothermia and “orthopedic and trauma issues from the crash,” said Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein in his latest update.

Both have been transferred to local area trauma centers.

The accident occurred near Montgomery Village, Maryland, around 5:30 p.m., about 25 miles from Washington D.C., and just a few miles from a small airport. About 120,000 homes and businesses lost power in the area as dozens of emergency personnel descended on the dramatic scene.

Photos show the aircraft enmeshed vertically in the lines and dangling off a transmission tower. It’s unclear how much damage the accident caused, but some estimates say the plane was trapped more than 100 feet off the ground.

A spokesman for Montgomery County’s Fire and Rescue Service identified the pilot as Patrick Merkle, 65, and the passenger as Jan Wiliams, 66. The pair were advised to conserve battery life so they could continue to communicate with rescuers throughout the night.

Crews had to work to ground the high-voltage power lines and secure the plane before they could attempt any rescue effort, Goldstein said. Video posted to social media early Monday morning showed rescue crews working in heavy fog to secure the plane after the power lines were grounded.

Goldstein said the grounding was completed at 11:30 p.m. Sunday by the energy utility company AUI. Crews then managed to secure the plane within 45 minutes, and at 12:25 a.m. Monday the first of the two people aboard the plane was evacuated and taken down to the ground. The second person was on the ground by 12:36 a.m.

“We have restored electric service for all customers who were impacted by tonight’s incident,” Pepco, which operates the lines, wrote on Twitter. “We are continuing to stabilize the energy infrastructure at the scene and are performing a full assessment of damage before beginning repairs.”

Crews will continue working to remove the plane and get power lines reconnected, Goldstein said.

The aircraft, identified by the Federal Aviation Administration as a single-engine plane, was flying to the county airport from White Plains, New York, on Sunday. It’s unclear what caused the accident, although The Washington Post notes it was misty and rainy in the area when it occurred.

Public schools and offices were closed for Monday, as were some college campuses, due to the power outages.

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