FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — An airplane and a helicopter collided in the air near a Maryland airport before crashing into a line of trees and a pair of storage units on the ground Thursday afternoon, killing three people and injuring two men.
A Cirrus SR22 plane was heading to the Frederick Municipal Airport and an R44 helicopter was involved in a training exercise when the collision occurred near the southwest corner of the airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The statement said the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
The plane went down in a line of trees east of downtown Frederick, while the helicopter crashed a tenth of a mile south, between two storage units, said Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley.
The three people who died were in the area of the helicopter wreckage, but it was not immediately clear whether all were on the helicopter, or if someone on the ground was killed, Shipley said.
The two men on the plane were taken by ambulance to Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, but were being discharged, hospital spokeswoman Joelle Butler said in an email about three hours after the collision.
A parachute deployed from the plane following the 3:40 p.m. collision and was still attached to the aircraft when emergency responders arrived on the scene, said Capt. Kevin Fox of Frederick County Fire and Rescue. The large, red-and-white striped parachute could initially be seen still inflated and in the air, and then on the ground.
Chris Wolfe, owner of Wolfe Moving Systems about a half-mile from the airport, said he heard the collision.
“We didn’t see it happen. We just heard this loud bang,” he said. “It sounded closer than what it was, but it was a hell of a collision.”
According to the FlightAware aviation tracking website, the plane took off from Cleveland Regional Jetport in Cleveland, Tennessee.
A tail number visible in aerial footage from WJZ-TV in Baltimore is registered to Graeves Auto & Appliance in Olney, Maryland. A woman who answered the phone at the store about 4:30 p.m. said, “We can’t give you any information” and hung up. According to the store’s website, Scott Graeves is the owner of the business. No one immediately responded to a telephone message left at his home.
The collision prompted road closures at rush hour around the airport near Interstate 70.
The airport opened in 1948. It has two runways.
Nurse Nina Pham arrived at the airport last week from Dallas on her way to treatment for Ebola at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
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