UPDATED: Dec. 9, 2014 4:37 p.m.
GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WNEW/AP) — A small, private jet slammed into a Gaithersburg neighborhood Monday, killing a woman and her young sons inside a home and three people on the aircraft, authorities said.
The plane lost control around 10:45 a.m., Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Steve Lohr said during a news conference.
Authorities quickly said all three people in the plane had been killed, but it took hours for fire crews to sweep the home and confirm that three people were inside. They were identified as 36-year-old Marie Gemmell and her two sons, 3-year-old Cole and a 1-month-old Devon, police said.
They were found in a second-floor bathroom. Gemmell was lying on top of her young sons in an apparent effort to shield them from the smoke and fire, said police Capt. Paul Starks. Her husband and a school-age daughter were not home and were accounted for, police said.
The fuselage of the jet crashed into the front lawn of an adjacent home, which was heavily damaged by fire, and investigators believe one of its wings, which had fuel inside, was sheared off and tore through the front of the Gemmell home, said Robert Sumwalt, a National Transportation Safety Board member. Witnesses reported seeing and hearing a secondary explosion after the plane hit the ground.
The two-story, wood-frame home was gutted. The first floor was nearly completely blown out and smoke drifted from a gaping hole in what was left of the collapsing roof. No one was injured in the adjacent homes, but they also sustained major damage.
Health Decisions of Durham, North Carolina, said in a news release that 66-year-old Dr. Michael Rosenberg, CEO of the company, was among those killed. Officials say the other two passengers have been “tentatively” identified as 52-year-old David Hartman and 31-year-old Chikioke Ogbuka, both of Raleigh, North Carolina.
On Tuesday, Health Decisions released a statement on the fatal crash:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of yesterday’s tragic accident. Our deepest condolences to the Gemmell family, who are mourning the heartbreaking loss of Marie, Cole and Devon Gemmell, and the Hartman family, who are mourning the loss of David Hartman.”
Rosenberg was a pilot who crashed a different plane in Gaithersburg in March 2010, according a government official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be named. Investigators are still trying to determine if Rosenberg was at the controls at the time of Monday’s crash.
NTSB spokesperson Robert Sumwalt says the plane was owned by SAGE Aviation in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Investigators will be collecting perishable evidence and may be on the scene for 3-7 days. They are also looking into the weather at the time of the crash, the plane’s engines, traffic control and the plane’s operation crew.
A witness tells WNEW’s Jim MacKay that the small plane wobbled and then barrel rolled as it crashed into the home.
An FAA spokesman said preliminary information shows the Embraer EMB-500/Phenom 100 twin-engine jet was on approach at the nearby Montgomery County Airpark, about a mile away from the neighborhood.
NTSB recovered black boxes that have the cockpit voice recorder and flight data. Officials say it was in good physical condition and was taken to headquarters in D.C.
Sumwalt says the cockpit voice recorder had good quality recordings and that the flight was about 57 minutes long with the plane cruising at 23,000 feet, he announced during a press conference Tuesday.
A Phenom 100 is a single pilot plane. Officials say a passenger was seated in co-pilot seat for the entire flight.
A “callout” of 500 feet was given about 32 seconds before the end of the recording. Then, about 20 seconds before the recording ended, a warning of an aerodynamic stall came through. However, Sumwalt says the stall warning was for an aerodynamic stall and has nothing to do with the engines.
Investigators say they have recovered four corners of the aircraft (including the two wings, nose and tail) at the accident site, meaning it was intact prior to impact. There is no evidence of an in-flight fire, catastrophic engine failure or bird ingestion.
NTSB officials say the pilots voice was picked up prior to crash and will be released at later time.
Brazilian and Canadian officials, where plane and engine was built, are helping with investigation.
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 Associated Press 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 said. “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.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
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