Two people were rescued early Monday after being trapped for nearly seven hours inside a small plane entangled in live wires about 100 feet above the ground.
The plane had crashed into power lines, causing widespread outages in Montgomery County, Maryland.
In what emergency personnel called a "Herculean effort", the pilot and passenger were rescued at about 12:30 a.m. ET and rushed to local trauma centers for serious injuries.
Crews used a cherry picker — or a mechanical lift — to reach the people trapped, according to photos tweeted by Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Services chief spokesperson Pete Piringer.
Maryland State Police identified the individuals as pilot Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, D.C., and passenger Janet Williams, 66, of Marrero, La.
Merkle and Williams suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries and that hypothermia had set in while they waited to be pulled from the plane, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said.
The aircraft remained suspended in the power lines early Monday. Crews were working to remove it — after which, the lines would be restrung and repaired.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement that the single-engine Mooney M20J hMad departed White Plains, New York, and crashed into a power line tower near Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg.
The FAA, National Transportation Safety Board and Maryland State Police are investigating.
Goldstein said the plane got stuck in the lines at around 5:40 p.m. Sunday. Responders secured the plane to the tower at 12:16 a.m. Monday, and the first occupant was removed at 12:25 a.m. The second occupant was out at 12:36 a.m.
"[The two people] seem to be OK at this time, however, they're in a very precarious situation due to the fact that they are dangling about 100 feet up and everything's still energized," Piringer said before the rescue.
Goldstein said emergency personnel could not reach the people in the plane until they were sure the power lines had been de-energized.
"While there is a large area of power outage in Montgomery County … there is no other way to determine if it's safe to access the tower until it is grounded or bonded," Goldstein said at a 9 p.m. press conference.
The Montgomery County Public School system decided late Sunday night to close its schools and offices Monday due to the outage's impact on safety and school operations.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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