GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) — 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, a Washington, D.C., suburb, 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 a woman and her two sons, a month-old infant and a 3-year-old, said Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.
He would only identify them by their last name: Gemmell.
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.
Fred Pedreira, 67, who lives near the crash site, 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,” Pedreira said. “I said, ‘My God, those are people in that plane.'”
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.
An FAA spokesman said preliminary information showed the Embraer EMB-500/Phenom 100 twin-engine jet was on approach at the nearby Montgomery County Airpark. The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate.
An NTSB investigator at the scene said the agency would look into everything involving what could have led to the crash, including crew experience and proficiency, training and procedures, equipment performance and weather.
He said investigators recovered the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from the downed plane, and that they were in good condition.