MCPS closes schools on Monday as power outage affects thousands of MoCo residents after Gaithersburg plane crash

Heather Jauquet

Rescue efforts underway for occupants of plane wedged into a power tower

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Plane wedged into power tower in Gaithersburg, MarylandPhoto byPete Piringer

At about 5:30 on Sunday night, as Montgomery County residents began planning their week after a long weekend with friends and family, lights flickered across the county. But, unfortunately, for residents in Flower Hill, Olney, Aspen Hill, and Silver Spring, holiday lights lost their cheer, and residents plunged into darkness.

According to the FAA, a plane departed the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, with intentions to land at Montgomery County Airpark. However, before arriving at their destination, the single-engine plane crashed into a power line tower, dangling pilot Patrick Merkle and passenger Jan Williams about 100 feet in the air.

The plane remains wedged in the power line tower as rescue crews begin efforts to ground the power line before rescuing the occupants.

Road closures and power outages affect much of the county. As a result, students and families are curious if schools will open the Monday after the long weekend. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) communicated with families saying they would continue to monitor the situation and the impact of the power outage on school system operations. More than 40 schools and six central office facilities are without power, affecting several key services such as maintenance, buses, and food services. By 11:30pm, MCPS has closed schools on Monday, November 28 due to the power outages affect on safety and school operations.

More than 85,000 Montgomery County residents remain without power. Road closures remain in place at Goshen and Centerway Roads. The plane is entangled in the power lines off Goshen Road behind Goshen Plaza.

Montgomery County Police and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service encourage residents to “avoid the area as there are still live wires.”

Fire chief Scott Goldstein says there are several concerns:

1) The tower needs to be grounded, and until then, there is no other way to access the power tower safely.

2) Securing the airplane

3) Waiting for other resources from other agencies to assist.

4) Safety of the occupants, the rescue crews, and the rescue itself

Resources from MCFR, DCFR, and Montgomery County Police, are on their way to assist in the rescue. Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said they are taking "measured and risk balance steps" to approach the recovery and to extract these two occupants from the plane. At the time of this article, the individuals are unharmed and are waiting to be rescued.

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Plane hanging from power line while surrounded by rescue crewsPhoto byBrian Nicholson/Used with permission

The power outage is affecting metro services. As a result, Metro is asking metro riders to allow additional travel time between Shady Grove to Grosvenor-Strathmore or Glenmont to Silver Spring on the Red line.

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.

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