MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now/WGNO) — Officials say a Louisiana woman and a Washington D.C. pilot are lucky to be alive after their plane crashed into a power lines tower in Maryland on Sunday (Nov. 28) evening, leaving them trapped in the air for several hours.
Maryland State Police say 66-year-old Jan Williams of Marrero, La., was aboard a plane flown by 65-year-old pilot Patrick Merkle when around 5:30 p.m., the aircraft crashed into the tower. We’re told the two departed from New York and were en route to the Montgomery County Airpark, about 30 miles north of Washington.
According to our affiliate DCNewsNow, the crash happened near the intersection of Goshen Road & Rothbury Drive, about 1 1/2 miles from their destination. We’re told the plane, a 45-year-old Mooney M20, was dangling about 100 feet in the air on energized powerlines as emergency responders carefully worked to free them.
At a news conference, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said Williams and Merkle were both alert following the crash and were in contact with emergency officials throughout the night. However, along with more than 120,000 people left without power, crews were met with the challenge of how they were going to safely remove the plane.
One of the biggest concerns, Goldstein said, was there was no way to tell if the tower was safe to access. That meant that line crews would have to maneuver up the lines themselves, put clamps on the wires to cut off power access, and begin work.
Additionally, to keep the plane from moving, it had to be properly secured to the tower. A large crane from electric company Pepco was onsite to help with the process.
Bystanders erupted into cheers as Williams and Merkle were freed from the aircraft after being trapped for nearly seven hours. Officials say both people had had serious injuries described as “hypothermia” and “orthopedic injuries.”
As of 1 p.m. Monday, power had been restored to most of the area affected by the crash.