By Jasmine Camille
Howard University News Service
Some Maryland residents are raising questions and concerns about safety and how to move forward after a small plane crashed into a power line tower in Montgomery County on Sunday evening, leaving the two passengers dangling in the aircraft for about seven hours and causing widespread power outages.
Maryland State Police identified the pilot of the Mooney Mike 20P single engine plane as Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, D.C., and the passenger as Janet Williams, 66, of Marrero, Louisiana.
“The pilot and passenger of the single engine plane were successfully rescued from the suspended plane without incident by EMS personnel using two specialty crane/boom trucks,” police said. They were treated at Suburban Hospital.
The Potomac Power and Electric Co., known as Pepco, initially stated that 85,000 customers lost power when the plane hit its aerial transmission lines and that it had restored power to everyone by 11:58 p.m. Monday.
“There are no signs of criminal activity or foul play at this time,” said Maryland State Police, which is assisting the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration with an investigation of the accident.
While pleased with the swift recovery of power and the safety of the passengers, a Maryland woman who declined to share her name still expressed some concern with the damages done by the crash.
“It’s very worrying when things like this happen because it’s out of our control,” she said. “What if there is another power outage or worse a fire with the power lines? What can we do?”
The small aircraft departed from Westchester County Airport near White Plains, New York, heading toward the Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg Maryland when it crashed. The accident was reported to have happened around 5:30 p.m., with the plane suspended about 100 feet above the ground in a transmission tower near Rothberry Drive and Goshen Road, according to the Montgomery County, Maryland, Fire & Rescue Service.
The two people in the plane, while saved, did not have an easy rescue. Power lines had to be grounded and the plane secured while they dangled from the transmission tower.
The accident and power outages disrupted the red line on the Metro and closed several roadways. Montgomery County Public Schools, child-care programs and Montgomery College all shut down on Monday. One student from Montgomery College explained how he had to take care of his younger sibling on the day off and wondered about the hardship on parents who had to miss work.
Jasmine Camile is a reporter for HUNewsService.com.