Pilot and passenger rescued after small plane crashes into power line in Maryland


[Breaking news update, published at 12:59 a.m. ET]

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Goldstein said early Monday that the pilot and passenger were rescued after being trapped for several hours in a plane that crashed into power lines in Montgomery County, Maryland on Sunday. Both were taken to hospital with serious injuries, he said.

[Original story, published at 12:51 a.m. ET]

Rescue efforts are underway after the pilot and passenger of a small plane crashed into power lines in Maryland on Sunday, local officials said.

According to Pete Brinker, chief spokesman for Montgomery County (MD) Fire and Rescue Services, rescue units were dispatched at 5:30 pm to reports of a small plane flying over power lines in Montgomery County.

When units arrived on scene, they found a small plane suspended about 100 feet in the air that had struck the tower. Brinker said the pilot and passenger survived and were fine.

The pilot was identified by Maryland State Police Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, DC. The passenger was identified as 66-year-old John Williams of Louisiana, state police said in a news release.

Firefighters have been in contact with the pilot and passengers, and nearby roads have been closed, Piringer said. The crash happened about four miles northwest of the Montgomery County Airpark, state police said.

“There was no other way to see if it was safe to approach the tower to the ground,” Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Goldstein said during a Sunday evening news conference.

This involves crews going up to place clamps or cables on wires to ensure there is no static electricity or residual power, the chief said. The aircraft must be secured in the tower system, he said. Foggy weather in the region further complicates conditions and affects visibility.

Goldstein said the plane “isn’t stable until it’s chained and tied down.” “Any movement, any accidental movement, will make the situation worse.”

Utility bucket trucks were seen near the plane late Sunday in a nearly six-hour rescue operation, according to the video CNN affiliate WJLA showed.

Goldstein said the department continues to check in with people on board and manage their cell phone use to protect their batteries.

After the tower is safe to access and the aircraft is secured, crews will “extricate the occupants and bring (them) to area hospitals,” Goldstein said.

About 120,000 customers were without power Sunday evening following the crash, but that number had dropped to less than 1,000 customers Monday morning. Pepco Utility Company, which provides electric service to approximately 894,000 customers in Washington, DC and surrounding areas in Maryland. Montgomery County is north of Washington, DC.

“We have confirmed that a private aircraft came into contact with Pepco’s transmission lines in Montgomery County,” Pepco tweeted. “We are assessing the damage and working closely with Montgomery County Fire and Emergency Services.”

“We are awaiting clearance for the scene to stabilize the electrical infrastructure and before crews begin work to restore service,” the company added.

Schools in Montgomery County will be closed Monday due to widespread power outages. District Officers said Sunday night.

District Said before More than 40 schools and six central offices in the Montgomery County Public Schools system were without power, affecting services such as maintenance, buses and food service.

Goldstein said two hospitals, MedStar Montgomery Medical Center and Holy Cross Hospital, were operating at limited capacity due to the power outage.

Resources from Pepco’s contractor have arrived at the scene, Goldstein said, and the local company has dispatched a large crane.

“We are taking measured and risk-balanced steps to approach this activity,” he said.

Chiefs from the Federal Aviation Administration and Maryland State Police were on the scene, Goldstein said Sunday night. State police said the FAA imposed flight controls during the rescue operation.

The FAA told CNN that the single-engine Mooney plane took off from Westchester County Airport in New York. The agency will conduct an investigation into the incident along with the National Transportation Safety Board.

William Smouse, who lives about a mile from the crash site, told CNN affiliate WJLA that he was on his way to dinner with his son Sunday evening when he saw “two big flashes” and several fire engines running.

“It’s unfortunate, but I’m glad they’re still there. We could see the light in the cockpit of the cell phone from the pilot, and we did what they called here to say they were OK,” Smouse said.

Smouse said the incident was “very scary” and that his home is in an area frequented by airplanes and jets.

“I think about it a lot, where they’re coming from, and really, they’re like 200 or 300 feet ahead of us,” he said.

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