Pilot, passenger rescued after small plane crashes in Maryland

A pilot and a passenger on a small plane that crashed into high-tension power lines in Maryland were stuck 100 feet off the ground for seven hours as a rescue crew devised how to safely get them down, officials said.

A Mooney M20J single-engine plane crashed into power lines near Gaithersburg at about 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 27, leaving the plane tangled in midair and knocking out power to about 120,000 homes.

"It’s crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it," bystander Christopher Wright said on TODAY Monday. "It looks like a scene out of a movie."

Emergency crews in Montgomery County worked through the night to secure the plane from falling during the rescue operation and also to make sure the power was off to any lines that could have harmed rescue personnel or the two people trapped in the plane.

"The No. 1 priority is getting the bucket trucks up and getting the bonding and grounding secured and then the plane secured," Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said at a press conference.

The pilot, identified as Patrick Merkle, 65, and his passenger, Jan Williams, 66, were unable to move for hours while suspended 10 stories high until the plane was lowered to safety. They were taken to a local hospital suffering from hypothermia and traumatic injuries that were not life-threatening, officials said.

Although their conditions have improved, one of them remains in the hospital, Goldstein said on Monday afternoon. Officials would not say whether Merkle or Williams is still in the hospital.

Their plane had departed from Westchester County Airport in New York on Nov. 27 before crashing into the power lines, and it's not clear what caused the crash, officials said. Authorities say foggy conditions in the area impacted visibility.

The two had a working cellphone and were able to call 911 following the crash and communicate with operators throughout the ordeal, officials said.

"I did see the pilot stick his hand out the window, waving his hand up and down just to signal that there’s somebody in there that’s alive," Wright said.

Workers have already restored service to most of the 120,000 homes that lost power from the crash, but more than 40 schools in Montgomery County canceled classes on Nov. 28 due to the outage.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are now working to determine the cause of the crash.


This article was originally published on TODAY.com