Plane That Departed From Westchester County Airport Crashes Into Power Lines, Causing Outages

A single-engine airplane that departed from Westchester County Airport crashed into a transmission tower in Maryland, causing a massive power outage and taking hours for rescuers to reach the two victims inside the plane.

A small plane that took off from White Plains Airport crashed into a power tower in a section of Montgomery County on Sunday, Nov. 27.

A small plane that took off from White Plains Airport crashed into a power tower in a section of Montgomery County on Sunday, Nov. 27.

Photo Credit: Pete Piringer

The Mooney M20J, owned by MFC Corporation of Washington, DC, left Westchester County Airport in White Plains, late in the afternoon on Sunday, Nov. 27, and crashed into the wires near Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, Maryland, around 5:40 p.m., said Rick Breitenfeldt of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Two people were on board, including the pilot identified as Patrick Merkle, age 66, of Washington, DC, and a passenger Janet Williams, age 66, of Marrero, Louisiana, said the Maryland State Police.

State police were dispatched to the location of the plane crash about four miles northwest of the Montgomery County Airpark in the area of Goshen Road and Rothbury Drive.

Arriving troopers found the plane suspended in the air, entangled in the transmission tower, and dangling hundreds of feet in the air, the department said.

Rescue crews were unable to reach the pilot and passenger until officials were sure power was cut off to the tower. 

After more than eight hours of work by the power company, the pilot and passenger of the plane were successfully rescued around 1 a.m., from the suspended plane without incident by EMS personnel using two specialty crane/boom trucks, state police said.

The two were transported to Suburban Hospital for medical treatment of serious injuries.

"We have confirmed that a private plane crashed into the company’s aerial transmission lines in Montgomery County, Maryland resulting in an outage to approximately 85,000 customers across the county," Potomac Electric Power Company officials said early Monday, Nov. 28.

Company officials said they are awaiting clearance to the scene before crews can begin work to stabilize the electric infrastructure and begin restoring service.

State police and EMS responders from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue currently remain on the scene alone with personnel from the Potomac Electric Power Company. 

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates, Breitenfeldt said. 

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