Plane crash witness recounts scene



Two people are recovering after their plane crashed into a power line tower Sunday evening in Montgomery County.A single-engine airplane flying from Westchester, New York, to the Montgomery County Airpark crashed around 5:30 p.m. Sunday into high-voltage power lines.”I literally see a plane just projected in the air, mid-air, and I’m baffled and confused about it,” said Kevin Kitonga, a witness. “I see it’s a plane lodged into the power line itself, and we were just all in shock.”The rescue effort of more than seven hours was a dangerous and dramatic operation that took much coordination and painstaking precision to bring the pilot and passenger to safety. Both were taken to a hospital and are doing better, one has since been released.Officials described traumatic and orthopedic injuries, but with a high-angle rescue and high-voltage power lines, it could’ve been much worse.”The aircraft did strike the power lines of the north tower before it then collided with and became embedded in the structure of the south tower,” Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services Chief Scott Goldstein said.Goldstein said the passengers were able to call 911 and stayed in constant contact with first responders, even with a dying cellphone battery. At one point, the pilot tried to climb out but was talked into staying put.”They were anxious. They were concerned about the stability of the aircraft, the stability of the aircraft remaining in the tower structure. They were disoriented to the severity of or the complexity of their circumstances,” Goldstein said.Video below: Montgomery County officials provide update into investigationThe pilot, who has decades of experience, didn’t mention any mechanical issues. Officials said the plane was on the filed flight path but was too low from where it should’ve been for the approach, just a mile from the airport.”Hitting a tower at 80 to 100 mph or something like that, and then not being able to go forward anymore and come to a sudden stop, ask yourself what it would be like for a car to hit a wall at 80 to 100 mph? I’d say (they’re) pretty lucky,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said.Crews had to ground the power lines before they could rescue the plane’s occupants and then bring the plane down to the ground.”That took grounding to ensure that there was no residual power, de-energizing the actual power source within the area as well,” PEPCO Region President Donna Cooper said. “This was a very challenging experience.”Video below: Crews lower plane from power line towerThe crash caused more than 120,000 customers to lose power at the peak of the outage, but it was restored around midnight.Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College campuses were closed Monday due to the outage.Experienced pilot reacts to crashLt. Col. Ken Ward, an experienced pilot in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area, said those passengers are lucky to be alive. He said he watched the aftermath of this crash in amazement.Ward estimates the plane was traveling a hundred to 120 miles per hour when it crashed. So, the fact that both people on board survived that and a complicated rescue is near miraculous. “I was amazed that the plane was intact. Normally, when something hits a powerline at the speeds these planes are going, something catastrophic will happen. The airframe will fall apart, and it was just amazing that the plan was intact and able to hang there,” Ward said.Ward has flown both helicopters and small airplanes for 20 years in the Army. He said he can’t imagine how difficult it was for the occupants to be trapped in the crashed plane for seven hours. “It’s like the front seat of a car. These small airplanes don’t have much more space than that and maybe you can reach the back seat if you have something back there, but I can’t imagine they’d be moving much at all,” Ward said.Ward said one small shift could’ve sent the plane crashing to the ground. He said all pilots undergo training for emergency situations and hazards. Powerlines are one of the first things they teach you to avoid. “I don’t know what started this accident but a lot of times, you think a road is a great place to land in an emergency but many times that’s where all the powerlines go, that’s where the cars go and many times an open field is a much better option,” he said. All in all, Ward said the passengers should consider themselves lucky. “They were all in all very lucky to hit something that gave a little bit and slowed them down but that’s why we always wear our harnesses and seatbelts in those aircraft as well,” he said.While the crash remains under investigation, officials said no foul play is suspected. The Federal Aviation Administration was at the scene Sunday night, and National Transportation Safety Board investigators will also investigate. The plane will not be moved from its location on the ground until officials have fully inspected it.

Two people are recovering after their plane crashed into a power line tower Sunday evening in Montgomery County.

A single-engine airplane flying from Westchester, New York, to the Montgomery County Airpark crashed around 5:30 p.m. Sunday into high-voltage power lines.

“I literally see a plane just projected in the air, mid-air, and I’m baffled and confused about it,” said Kevin Kitonga, a witness. “I see it’s a plane lodged into the power line itself, and we were just all in shock.”

The rescue effort of more than seven hours was a dangerous and dramatic operation that took much coordination and painstaking precision to bring the pilot and passenger to safety. Both were taken to a hospital and are doing better, one has since been released.

Officials described traumatic and orthopedic injuries, but with a high-angle rescue and high-voltage power lines, it could’ve been much worse.

“The aircraft did strike the power lines of the north tower before it then collided with and became embedded in the structure of the south tower,” Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services Chief Scott Goldstein said.

Goldstein said the passengers were able to call 911 and stayed in constant contact with first responders, even with a dying cellphone battery. At one point, the pilot tried to climb out but was talked into staying put.

“They were anxious. They were concerned about the stability of the aircraft, the stability of the aircraft remaining in the tower structure. They were disoriented to the severity of or the complexity of their circumstances,” Goldstein said.

Video below: Montgomery County officials provide update into investigation

The pilot, who has decades of experience, didn’t mention any mechanical issues. Officials said the plane was on the filed flight path but was too low from where it should’ve been for the approach, just a mile from the airport.

“Hitting a tower at 80 to 100 mph or something like that, and then not being able to go forward anymore and come to a sudden stop, ask yourself what it would be like for a car to hit a wall at 80 to 100 mph? I’d say (they’re) pretty lucky,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said.

Crews had to ground the power lines before they could rescue the plane’s occupants and then bring the plane down to the ground.

“That took grounding to ensure that there was no residual power, de-energizing the actual power source within the area as well,” PEPCO Region President Donna Cooper said. “This was a very challenging experience.”

Video below: Crews lower plane from power line tower

The crash caused more than 120,000 customers to lose power at the peak of the outage, but it was restored around midnight.

Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College campuses were closed Monday due to the outage.

Experienced pilot reacts to crash

Lt. Col. Ken Ward, an experienced pilot in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area, said those passengers are lucky to be alive. He said he watched the aftermath of this crash in amazement.

Ward estimates the plane was traveling a hundred to 120 miles per hour when it crashed. So, the fact that both people on board survived that and a complicated rescue is near miraculous.

“I was amazed that the plane was intact. Normally, when something hits a powerline at the speeds these planes are going, something catastrophic will happen. The airframe will fall apart, and it was just amazing that the plan was intact and able to hang there,” Ward said.

Ward has flown both helicopters and small airplanes for 20 years in the Army. He said he can’t imagine how difficult it was for the occupants to be trapped in the crashed plane for seven hours.

“It’s like the front seat of a car. These small airplanes don’t have much more space than that and maybe you can reach the back seat if you have something back there, but I can’t imagine they’d be moving much at all,” Ward said.

Ward said one small shift could’ve sent the plane crashing to the ground. He said all pilots undergo training for emergency situations and hazards. Powerlines are one of the first things they teach you to avoid.

“I don’t know what started this accident but a lot of times, you think a road is a great place to land in an emergency but many times that’s where all the powerlines go, that’s where the cars go and many times an open field is a much better option,” he said.

All in all, Ward said the passengers should consider themselves lucky.

“They were all in all very lucky to hit something that gave a little bit and slowed them down but that’s why we always wear our harnesses and seatbelts in those aircraft as well,” he said.

While the crash remains under investigation, officials said no foul play is suspected. The Federal Aviation Administration was at the scene Sunday night, and National Transportation Safety Board investigators will also investigate. The plane will not be moved from its location on the ground until officials have fully inspected it.



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