Two people who were inside a small plane that crashed into power lines in Montgomery County, Maryland, Sunday evening are being treated for serious injuries Monday morning as the investigation into the collision continues.
The pilot and his passenger were suspended inside the tangled plane for hours after it crashed in Montgomery Village around 5:30 p.m., authorities said.
The crash caused widespread power outages across Montgomery County.
At one point during the night, around 85,000 Pepco energy company customers were left without power. Pepco said on Twitter around 1:30 a.m. that everyone who was affected has had their power restored.
Before 1 a.m., emergency personnel safely brought the two people trapped inside the dangling plane to the ground, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said in a news briefing. Responders took the two plane occupants to a trauma center with serious injuries, Goldstein said.
Authorities were set to provide more details about the crash at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Maryland State Police identified the pilot as Patrick Merkle, 66, of D.C., and the passenger as Jan Williams, 66, of Louisiana. The Federal Aviation Administration reported that the plane departed the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, on its way to Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg.
As a result of the hours-long outage Sunday night, Montgomery County Public Schools closed schools Monday. (Food services also aren’t available).
The public school system sent a note to parents that said the closure is because “staff need to assess all buildings for their safety and other systems readiness such as heat, water and network connectivity; this work will be done throughout the day.”
Montgomery College also closed all of its campuses and locations for Monday.
Goshen Road, near the power lines the plane hit, will be closed “for some time” Goldstein said, as authorities still need to disentangle the plane and restring power lines.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are trying to figure out what happened. There’s no sign of criminal activity, according to Maryland State Police.
Rescuing those inside the plane
Officials described a painstaking, hours-long rescue.
Before crews could rescue the plane’s occupants, the energy company contractor AUI had to first ground any residual electricity remaining in the tower and the surrounding crash area.
The energy company finished the process about six hours after the plane crashed, according to Goldstein. The next goal was to fully secure the position of the plane on one of the towers so it would not shift during rescue efforts.
Around midnight, fire personnel secured the plane and shortly thereafter brought the plane’s occupants to the ground, Goldstein said.
Throughout the rescue, Goldstein said rescue crews were in regular contact with the plane’s occupants, who were advised to monitor their cellphone batteries.
FAA records show the plane is owned by Metal Forming and Coining Corporation (MFC), of which Merkle, the pilot, is president.
Outages after the crash
Pepco confirmed that the private plane crashed into the company’s aerial transmission lines near the intersection of Rothbury Drive and Goshen Road. Power outages as a result of the crash impacted tens of thousands of customers in Montgomery County.
Outages, including street and traffic lights, were reported in the areas of Wheaton, Olney, Gaithersburg and as far away as Silver Spring.
Jackie Bensen of WTOP’s news partner NBC4 shared video of power outages on Frederick Road in Gaithersburg on Sunday night.
— Jackie Bensen (@jackiebensen) November 27, 2022
WTOP’s Jessica Kronzer, John Aaron and Hugh Garbrick contributed to this story.