A small plane with two people on board was estimated to be dangling 100 feet (30 m) above the ground on Sunday night after hitting a power line outside Gaithersburg, Maryland, officials said.
The two were not injured and were communicating with first responders as they awaited rescue, Maryland State Police said in a statement.
Officials said at a press conference it will be difficult to save them because the power line will need to be personally tested to make sure it does not harm the first responders or the two aboard the plane.
“There’s no other way to determine if it’s safe to access the tower until it’s grounded or bonded, which means crews have to go to the wires themselves to place clamps or cables on the wires and then make sure to make sure there’s no static, no residual current,” Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said at the news conference.
An estimated time of rescue was not given; Goldstein seemed hopeful about the arrival of specialized crews dealing with transmission equipment, as well as the expected response from more first responders.
According to troopers and the Federal Aviation Administration, the single-engine Mooney M20J plane crashed about 4:40 p.m. about 4 miles northwest of Montgomery County Airpark. The area is home to the community of Montgomery Village.
“Arriving troopers found the plane suspended in mid-air, entangled in a power pylon,” state police said in the statement.
They identified the pilot as Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, DC, and the passenger as Jan Williams, 66, of Louisiana. The plane took off from Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, the FAA said in a statement.
Officials said about 120,000 utilities in the area were without power. Pepco, the Potomac Electric Power Co., said in a statement crews have responded to the crash site and are working with authorities to expedite the rescue and restore electricity.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the matter.
The intersection below the plane, Rothbury Drive and Goshen Road, was closed as the rescue operation continued late on Sunday.
Lindsey Pipia, Michelle Acevedo, Caryn Littler, Jay Blackman and Clara Secret contributed.