Plane crashes into Maryland home; six people dead

December 9th, 2014 by Staff

The plane went down just before noon Monday; three people on board were killed.

(WBAL TV-11) GAITHERSBURG, Md. – A small, private jet crashed into a house in Maryland’s Montgomery County on Monday, killing a woman and her young sons inside the home and three people on the aircraft, authorities said.

The jet slammed into the home just before lunchtime in Gaithersburg, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Steve Lohr said during a news conference.

Authorities quickly said three people in the plane had been killed but it took hours for them to sweep the home and confirm that three people were inside when the plane crashed. They were later identified as Marie Gemmell, 36, and her two sons, a month-old infant, Devon Gemmell, and 3-year-old,  Cole Gemmell, said Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.
Neighbors and property records identify the home’s residents as Ken and Marie Gemmell.

The two-story, wood-frame home was gutted by the impact of the crash and ensuing blaze. The first floor was nearly completely blown out and smoke drifted from a gaping hole in what was left of the collapsing roof. Two adjacent homes also had significant damage, with one of them clearly having caught fire as well.

The crash happened less than 1 mile from the Montgomery County Airpark.

SkyTeam 11 video showed at least one home nearly destroyed, with a car in the driveway. Witnesses said they saw the airplane appear to struggle to maintain altitude before going into a nosedive and crashing. But the exact cause of the crash was not yet known.

Crews had the fire under control within an hour and were searching for anyone who may have been in the homes.

Fred Pedreira, 67, who lives near the crash, said he had just returned home from the grocery store and was parking his car when he saw the jet and immediately knew something was wrong.

“This guy, when I saw him, for a fast jet with the wheels down, I said, ‘I think he’s coming in too low,’” Pedreira told The Associated Press. “Then he was 90 degrees — sideways — and then he went belly-up into the house and it was a ball of fire. It was terrible.

“I tell you, I got goosebumps when I saw it. I said, ‘My God, those are people in that plane,” Pedreira said. “I just hope nobody was in that home.”

Byron Valencia, 31, who also lives nearby, told The AP that he was in his kitchen when he heard a jet engine flying overhead, and then a big thump shortly after.

“When I opened my window, I could see smoke over the trees and I heard a small explosion, like a pop,” he said. “I could see the smoke rising … It’s scary.”

Emily Gradwohl, 22, who lives two doors down from the house the jet hit, was home at the time of the crash and ran outside to see what had happened.

“I heard like a loud crash, and the whole house just shook,” Gradwohl told The AP. “We got jackets on, ran outside and saw one of the houses completely set on fire.”

She said planes fly low over the neighborhood every day, but she had never worried about a crash until now.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said preliminary information shows the Embraer EMB-500/Phenom 100 twin-engine jet was on approach to Runway 14 to the Montgomery County Airpark before the crash.

FAA said it is investigating the crash. A National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson said the agency sent an investigator to the scene.

“In this particular case, as many of the airplanes now a days, the recorders are in one combined unit so that has not only has the cockpit voice recorder, but it also has the flight data recorder and as soon as that black box was recovered, by the way, it was in good physical condition. It has been rushed to our headquarters in Washington, D.C., where folks in our labs, investigators in our labs, will begin this evening, downloading the data,” said Robert Sumwalt with the NTSB.

The NTSB also said it will be looking at other factors such as the crew’s experience, training, the people that were on the jet, the plane’s engine and they will also interview air traffic controllers.

CEO of NC research organization killed in crash

The founder and CEO of a North Carolina clinical research organization was among those killed in the crash.

Health Decisions of Durham, North Carolina, in a news release identified Dr. Michael Rosenberg as among those killed.

“Everyone at Health Decisions is devastated by the loss of our friend and colleague Michael Rosenberg,” stated Health Decisions Vice President, Clinical Affairs Patrick Phillips D Phil. “The thoughts of the management and employees of Health Decisions go out to Dr. Rosenberg’s family as well as to the families of the other passengers.”

“We can best honor Michael by carrying on and realizing his vision of a more efficient approach to clinical development,” Phillips said. “We are committed to that goal.”

Phillips stated that the Health Decisions Executive Team would announce succession plans at an appropriate time. No changes are anticipated in the company’s day-to-day business activities.

Authorities said Rosenberg was among three people on the plane who were killed.

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