A twin-engine plane crashed into a house in a Gaithersburg, Maryland, subdivision on Monday morning, killing three people in the plane, and a mother and two small boys in the residence, according to local and federal authorities.
The bodies of Marie Gemmell and her sons, Cole, 3, and Devon, an infant, were found in the second-floor bathroom of one of the houses struck by the plane, said Pete Piringer, the public information officer for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue.
One of the people killed on the plane was Michael Rosenberg, CEO and founder of a North Carolina clinical development company called Health Decisions, according to a statement from the company. The flight originated in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, close to the company headquarters in Durham.
The crash occurred about 10:44 a.m. Monday as the twin-engine Embraer EMB-500/Phenom 100 made an instrument approach to Montgomery County Airport, Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board said at a press conference near the wreckage.
The plane went down about a mile from the airport, hitting three houses in all. The airport is about 25 miles northwest of Washington.
Witness Fred Pedreira, 67, told CNN affiliate WJLA the plane appeared to be out of control when it crashed.
“This guy, when I saw him, for a fast jet with the wheels down, I said, ‘I think he’s coming in too low,'” said Pedreira, who lives near the crash scene. “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.”
In describing the crash site, Sumwalt said, “The main part of fuselage is rested up against the second house, with the tail of the airplane actually at the front door of that house, and then finally it appears that one of the wings was catapulted over into the third house where the majority of the fire damage occurred. So the aircraft wreckage itself is really in two main areas, but it damaged three houses.”
Montgomery County Police Chief Chris Manger said Gemmell’s husband and the couple’s 5-year-old child were not home at the time.
“This a tragic loss for the Montgomery County community,” Fire Chief Steven Lohr said at the press conference.
The NTSB has not said who piloted the plane but Rosenberg was a pilot certified to fly that type of aircraft, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
FAA records show the same Michael Rosenberg crashed a small plane while landing at the same airport on March 1, 2010.
In the 2010 incident, a plane skidded 100 feet off the runway at Montgomery County Airport and came to rest in trees, nose down in the mud, the NTSB report says. There was one minor injury, the report said.
On Monday, Sumwalt said the plane’s “black box” had been recovered from the wreckage. He said the device contained the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.
“It has been rushed to our headquarters in Washington, D.C., where folks in our labs, investigators in our labs will be begin this evening downloading the data,” he said.
There was no ‘mayday’ call from the plane, and the first sign of trouble was a radio call from someone who saw the crash.
“I think that Phenom just came up short,” the call said, according to LiveATC.net.
“What? Holy [deleted]!” someone else replied on the frequency.
Later, someone says, “There’s nothing left of that house.”
A woman who lives near the scene of the plane crash told CNN affiliate WUSA she might have heard victims calling for help.
“I heard screams and somebody else beside me heard screams, but we’re not sure if it was from inside the house or behind the house. … We’re not completely sure it came from inside the house, but we did hear screams,” the woman said.
She also described how she first became aware that something was terribly wrong.
“At first I heard a big sputtering sound. By the time we rushed over here, you see a plane hit the side of the house and then crash right down and there was a big explosion,” the woman said.
She also says she heard a loud booming sound. “By then, the flames were just so high and then it was a big mushroom effect of smoke and it just burst into flames.”