A 911 call that may have saved the lives of a pilot and his passenger after their small plane crashed into a high-voltage tower in Maryland on Sunday night has revealed some of the circumstances surrounding the crash.
The pilot, Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, D.C., and his passenger, Jan Williams, 66, of Louisiana, were rescued early Monday after the crash outside Gaithersburg, coming away with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
“I’ve flown into a tower to the northwest of Gaithersburg Airport. It’s one of the electrical towers," the pilot tells dispatchers in a 911 call made public by Montgomery County Police, according to NBC Washington. “Believe it or not, the aircraft is pinned in the tower.
“Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of wind, but if we get some wind going, we’re goners,” the pilot says as he and his passenger remain trapped inside the plane.
At one point, the pilot describes what happened in the moments leading up to the crash.
“Totally a visibility issue," he said, according to NBC Washington. "We were looking for the airport. I descended to the minimum altitude and, uh, then, apparently, I got down a little bit lower than I should have."
Eventually, first responders were able to rescue the pair.
“I just want to say: I’m really, really glad that both of the pilot and the passenger made it out safely," Laurel Manion, the Montgomery County Public Safety employee who answered the initial 911 call, told NBC Washington.
"That was the ultimate goal, and I hope you guys are doing good," Manion said in a message addressed to the pilot and passenger. "I wish you good health."
The Mooney M20J single-engine plane was initially reported down about 4 miles northwest of Montgomery County Airpark at about 5:40 p.m. Sunday, according to troopers and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Officials said at a news conference that the rescue was complicated, as any power line near the wreckage needed to be tested in person to ensure it wouldn’t harm first responders or the people aboard the plane.
EMS personnel used two specialty trucks with cranes to rescue the pair, state police said in a statement.
Both were rushed to trauma care, Montgomery County Fire Department officials have said. One of them remained in the hospital Monday afternoon, officials said. It wasn’t immediately clear what their status was early Wednesday.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board have said they are investigating.
Officials said around 120,000 utility customers in the area were left without power at one point late Sunday, and the outage closed schools Monday.
A statement from Pepco, the Potomac Electric Power Co., said crews responded to the crash site and worked with authorities to expedite the rescue and restoration of power. Power was restored to all by 11:58 p.m. Sunday, region President Donna Cooper said.