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2 rescued from small plane after striking high-tension power lines

ABC News 11/28/2022

Two people have been rescued from a small private plane after it struck and got lodged in a high-tension power line tower in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Chief Scott Goldstein confirmed both the pilot and passenger were transported to local area trauma centers with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

"There's some hypothermia issues," Goldstein said. "They've been out there very anxious, but very happy to be down. They were communicating with us the entire time."

A small plane rests on live power lines after crashing, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Montgomery Village, a northern suburb of Gaithersburg, Md. © AP Photo/Tom Brenner A small plane rests on live power lines after crashing, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Montgomery Village, a northern suburb of Gaithersburg, Md.

The pilot was identified as Patrick Merkle, 66, and the passenger was Janet Williams, 66, police said. Only one of the two on board the plane remains in the hospital, but Goldstein declined to identify which person.

The plane struck the tower at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Goldstein said.

However, rescue work had to be delayed until the plane could be secured to the tower and the tower was confirmed to be grounded, according to Goldstein.

"There was no point we were certain the plane wasn't going to fall until we secured it," Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services public information officer Pete Piringer said Monday, adding later, "This was the best possible outcome we could have. They were very fortunate to survive."

The plane, which was stuck about 100 feet off the ground, was "not going to be stable until it's chained and strapped in place," Goldstein said during the rescue, adding that heavy fog in the area made the task difficult.

Cloud cover is believed at this time to have played a role in the crash, but the investigation is ongoing.

MORE: Pilot rescued from plane crash on train tracks reunites with heroes who saved him

About 85,000 Montgomery County customers were without power as a result of the crash, officials with the local power company said on Twitter.

Goldstein said that power in the county was restored by Pepco just before midnight.

FAA officials said the plane had departed from Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York.

In a statement to ABC News, the National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the crash alongside the FAA, state and local authorities and the plane's manufacturers.

Investigators will speak to the pilot and the passenger when they have recovered and will look into the plane's maintenance records, the NTSB said.

Montgomery County Public Schools announced earlier that MCPS schools and offices will be closed Monday, Nov. 28 "due to a widespread power outage and its impact on safety and school operations." There has been no update since most of the power has been restored.

ABC News' Benjamin Siu contributed to this report.

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