Two people were left dangling at a height of about 100 feet after their small plane crashed into a high-voltage transmission tower and became entangled in power lines in Maryland, officials said.
The single-engine plane, which had departed White Plains, New York, crashed into the power lines near Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg around 5.40pm on Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement.
A pilot, identified by Maryland State Police as Patrick Merkle, 65, and a passenger Jan Williams, 66, were onboard, said Pete Piringer, chief spokesperson for the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service.
The two occupants were rescued on Monday morning, several hours after the crash, and suffered “serious injuries”, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said in a statement.
“Both patients have been transported to local area trauma centres with serious injuries,” Montgomery Mr Goldstein said in a press briefing.
He said the two people had suffered hypothermia and orthopaedic and trauma-related injuries.
They were taken down by 12.36am after the crews were able to electrically ground the plane.
The rescue units arrived to find the aircraft suspended approximately 100 feet in the air. The two occupants were not injured at the time of the crash, Mr Piringer has said before their rescue.
The occupants of the plane are “dangling about 100ft in the air and everything is still energised at this time,” Mr Piringer said.
“They’re in a very precarious situation given the fact they are dangling about 100ft up.”
Traffic on the road was suspended as rescue units attempted to bring down the trapped survivors safely from the tower.
Special technical groups arrived on the scene along with a hazmat team to assist fire and police officials.
“We are in the process of getting to the people in the plane, we are in communication,” Mr Piringer said.
The incident caused a mass power outage in the area with around 120,000 customers suffering blackouts, according to Pepco, the Washington-area utility company.
Roads were also closed and many traffic lights in the area were out.
Montgomery County Public Schools said all the schools and offices will remain closed on Monday due to a “widespread power outage and its impact on safety and school operations”.
The people in Montgomery Village have been asked to avoid the area due to “live wires” at the scene. Pepco, however, said it had “de-energised” the lines.
Visuals from the crash showed a small white plane positioned nose up against the transmission tower and entangled in wires.
A local television station’s live video showed the plane remained stuck in the transmission tower after 8pm.
Mr Goldstein had said rescue officials were in contact with the two occupants by calling their cell phones at regular intervals. He declined to describe the condition of the plane’s occupants at that time, except to say that they “have been in contact with them”.
“There is no other way to determine if it’s safe to access the tower until it is grounded, which means crews have to go up to the wires themselves to put clamps and cables onto the wires” to ensure there is no static electricity or residual power, Mr Goldstein told reporters.
Mr Goldstein said the plane also needs to be secured to the electrical tower before the occupants can be removed.
He said an “extraordinarily large crane” provided by a local company was on the scene.
It was expected to take until 9.30pm or later to have all the resources in place to proceed with rescue efforts, the officials said.
No timetable, however, was given for how long it would take after that to bring the plane occupants down.
The high-tension wires will be first grounded to make it safe for rescuers to work and then fire crews will then use bucket trucks or a crane to make the plane stable by chaining it or strapping it to the tower, Mr Goldstein said.
After the plane is more stable the rescuers will use the crane or bucket trucks to bring the two people down.
The FAA identified the plane as a Mooney M20J and said they will investigate the incident with the National Transportation Safety Board.