According to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Chief Scott Goldstein, a pilot and passenger who were trapped in a tiny plane for over seven hours after it crashed into electrical lines in Montgomery County, Maryland, on Sunday have been rescued.
According to Goldstein, both people were sent to the hospital with critical injuries, including orthopedic and trauma injuries from the collision and hypothermia.
According to Pete Piringer, chief spokesperson for Montgomery County (MD) Fire & Rescue Service, the rescue operation started at 5:30 p.m. when workers reacted to reports of a small plane colliding with power wires.
When emergency responders got there, they saw a small plane that had hit the tower hanging about 100 feet in the air.
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The pilot was revealed to be Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, DC, by the Maryland State Police. The driver is Jan Williams, 66, of Louisiana, according to a news release from the state police.
Officials claim that while the pilot and passenger were being rescued, the fire department was in contact with them and neighboring highways were closed. According to state police, the accident site is four miles northwest of the Montgomery County Airpark.
MCPS schools and offices will be closed Monday, Nov. 28, due to a widespread power outage and its impact on safety and school operations.
— MCPS (@MCPS) November 28, 2022
Before reaching the passengers, rescuers had to wait for the tower to be “grounded or bonded,” according to Goldstein, who spoke during a press conference on Sunday night.
According to the chief, this required teams climbing to place clamps or cables onto the lines to check for static electricity or residual power. He said that the tower construction needs to be secured to the airplane as well. He noted that because the vision was reduced by the region’s foggy weather, the situation became more challenging.
At 11:30 p.m., a utility contractor completed grounding electricity lines close to the plane, according to Goldstein, and helped rescue teams secure the plane within the following 45 minutes.
According to Goldstein, the first passenger was taken out of the aircraft at 12:25 a.m., and the second person came out of the aircraft about 10 minutes later.
During the rescue, according to Goldstein, the department often checked in with the passengers on the plane and controlled their cell phone usage to preserve battery life.
Crews will stay on the spot all night to take the plane out and fix and reconnect the broken electrical cables.
We have confirmed that a private plane came into contact with Pepco’s transmission lines in Montgomery County, resulting in an outage to approximately 85,000 customers. We are assessing damage and working closely with Montgomery County fire and emergency services.
— Pepco (@PepcoConnect) November 27, 2022
According to the Pepco utility company, which provides electric service to roughly 894,000 customers in Washington, DC, and surrounding areas in Maryland, the number of customers without power dropped from approximately 120,000 Sunday evening following the crash to less than 1,000 early Monday morning. Just to the north of Washington, DC, is Montgomery County.
In a tweet, Pepco stated that it had “verified” that a private plane had collided with several of their transmission wires in Montgomery County. We are evaluating the damage and coordinating with Montgomery County emergency agencies.
According to district authorities, schools in Montgomery County will be closed on Monday owing to the extensive power outages.
More than 40 schools in the Montgomery County Public Schools system, along with six central offices, were previously reported by the district as being without electricity, which had an impact on services including maintenance, transportation, and food service.
Due to the power outage, two hospitals—MedStar Montgomery Medical Center and Holy Cross Hospital—were only able to operate partially Sunday night, according to Goldstein.
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Authorities from the Maryland State Police and the Federal Aviation Administration were present, according to Goldstein on Sunday night. During the rescue operations, the FAA imposed an aircraft restriction, according to state police.
The FAA confirmed to CNN that the aircraft was a single-engine Mooney that took off from New York’s Westchester County Airport. The organization and the National Transportation Safety Board will also look into the occurrence.
William Smouse, who lives about a mile from the scene of the collision, told CNN affiliate WJLA on Sunday night that he and his son were on their way to dinner when they noticed “two big flashes” and a number of fire engines passing by.
The experience, according to Smouse, was “very frightening,” because his house is next to busy airspace.
“They really come in and are 200 or 300 feet over us,” he continued, “and I worry about it a lot.