A small plane with 2 aboard dangles on Maryland power tower

A small airplane with two people on board was dangling an estimated 100 feet above ground Sunday night after the aircraft struck a high-voltage transmission line outside Gaithersburg, Maryland, officials said.

A small airplane with two people on board was dangling an estimated 100 feet above ground Sunday night after the aircraft struck a tower supporting high-voltage power lines.

The two were not injured and were communicating with first responders as they awaited rescue, Maryland State Police said in a statement.

Speaking at a news conference, officials said rescuing the two will be difficult because the power line needs to be tested in person to ensure it won’t harm first responders or the two on board the plane.

Plane in power lines tower Maryland
A small plane with two people aboard sits lodged in a power line pole Sunday evening in Montgomery County, Maryland. Montgomery County, Maryland, Fire and Rescue

“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,” Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said at the news conference.

An estimated time of rescue was not given, but the chief seemed hopeful about the arrival of specialized crews that deal with transmission equipment, as well as the expected response of more first responders.

The Mooney M20J single-engine plane was reported down about four miles northwest of Montgomery County Airpark about 5:40 p.m., according to troopers and the Federal Aviation Administration. The area is home to the community of Montgomery Village.

“Arriving troopers found the plane suspended in the air, entangled in a power line tower,” state police said in the statement.

They identified the pilot as Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, D.C., and the passenger as Jan Williams, 66, of Louisiana. The aircraft had departed from Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y., the FAA said in a statement.

Officials said about 120,000 utility customers in the area were without power. Pepco, the Potomac Electric Power Company, said in a statement that its crews have responded to the crash site and are working with authorities to expedite the rescue and restore electricity.

What caused the small plane to go down was under investigation by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The intersection beneath the plane, Rothbury Drive and Goshen Road, was closed as the rescue operation continued late Sunday.

Lindsey Pipia, Michelle Acevedo, Caryn Littler and Jay Blackman contributed.

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