Small Plane Hits Power Tower, Dangles 100 Feet In The Air

By Jason Hall

November 28, 2022

Photo: Montgomery County (MD) Fire & Rescue Service

Two people were rescued from a small airplane that dangled about 100 feet in a high-voltage transmission tower in Gaithersburg, Maryland about four miles away from Montgomery County Airpark, local authorities confirmed.

The two individuals, identified as pilot Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, D.C., and passenger Jan Williams, 66, of Louisiana, experienced non-life-threatening injuries and were transported to trauma care after being taken out of the Mooney M2OJ single-engine plane just prior to 12:30 a.m. on Monday (November 28), Montgomery County Fire Department officials announced during a news conference via NBC News.

Merkle and Williams were believed to be unharmed when the crash was initially reported at around 5:40 p.m. on Sunday (November 27), as they were communicating with first responders by cellphone prior to being rescued, Maryland State Police and other local officials said.

But authorities said the two victims experienced physical trauma during the collision with the power lines, as well as possible exposure while waiting for rescuers to evacuate them in the 50-degree weather.

Rescue efforts were made difficult because any power line near the wreckage needed to be tested in person to make sure it wouldn't cause harm to the victims on board the plane at the time, officials said during Monday's news conference.

"There is no other way to determine if it's safe to access the tower until it is grounded or bonded, which means crews have to go up to the wires themselves to put clamps or cables onto the wires to then ensure that there's no static electricity, no residual power," said Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein during a news conference early Monday morning.

The plane departed from Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, prior to the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed in a statement obtained by NBC News.

The crash into the power lines caused about 120,000 outages for local residents in Gaithersburg, the majority of which which was rerouted and restored by early Sunday, Pepco, the Potomac Electric Power Co., confirmed in a statement to NBC News.

The cause of the crash is currently being investigated by both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

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