Two killed in Eldersburg plane crash

April 08, 1995|By This article was written and reported by Sun staff writers Rafael Alvarez, Amy L. Miller, Bill Talbott and Anne Haddad.

A small, rented plane trying to land at a rural airport around dinnertime yesterday crashed in the front yard of an Eldersburg house, killing two of the four people on board in the second Carroll County plane wreck in as many days.

The dead were identified as Nancy Thomas, 19, of Laurel, and Jeffrey Burbridge, 44, of College Park. The injured were identified as Robert Woods, 43, of Baltimore, who was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and Angela Pownell, 28, of Hampstead, who was listed in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The red-and-white Cessna 172 Skyhawk 2 had left Hayes Field in Clarksville, Howard County, about 4 p.m., according to state police. Investigators weren't sure where the plane went before attempting to land at Wolf Airport in Eldersburg, where at 5:28 p.m. it zipped between a pair of houses on Frontier Road before its nose hit the front yard of 1994 Stillwater Road.

"It flipped once in the air and that's when they lost control," said Robyn Globus, 17, who watched the plane fall as she sat on her front porch a few blocks away.

Neighbors of the Oklahoma Estates development ran from their homes and put out the fire with household extinguishers and garden hoses. Two residents trying to help were taken to Northwest Hospital Center after they inhaled smoke and fire extinguisher fumes.

"I heard a plane but couldn't figure out where it was coming from," said JoAnna Sherman, who was playing with her daughters in a sandbox when the Cessna brushed over trees in her back yard. Talking to a relative on a portable phone, she yelled, "Oh my God, it's not going to make it!"

It didn't. After passing her house, the plane hit a curb, raked its left wing across a lawn and slammed into Tiffany Hook's front yard.

"I looked out my [bedroom] window and saw the plane [on fire]," said Tiffany, 14.

Some of the victims were hanging out of the plane, and the smoke was heavy. Rescuers, including some who had followed the plane in their cars, yelled for water.

Carissa Purcell, who was visiting the Hooks, ran out with a fire extinguisher while Tiffany called 911. Then shouts went up for everyone to get away from the plane, that it was about to blow up. Before that could happen, the fire was put out.

"It didn't make a crash sound like I thought it would," said Karen Wittig, a Stillwater Road resident who was alerted to the plane by her 2-year-old, who pointed up to the sky, saying: "Mommy! Look! Airplane!"

"I heard a bang, but it didn't explode," said Ms. Wittig.

Volunteers from the Sykesville-Freedom fire departments began arriving about 10 minutes after the crash, witnesses said. The first person on the scene was Hoby Wolf, owner of Wolf Airport, where the Cessna had tried to land on a grass runway. Mr. Wolf has owned the Oklahoma Road airport since 1955, long before suburban housing began dotting the countryside.

Mr. Wolf said he had not seen the plane -- which sported the registration number N-20819 on its tail -- at his park before. Mr. Wolf said that to land at the airport, a pilot must put down on the first third of the field. The Cessna didn't, and the pilot went back up, accelerating to make it over telephone poles. The ascent was too steep, Mr. Wolf conjectured, and the engine stalled.

Mr. Wolf jumped in his car with a friend named Ed Onion, and they raced about a half-mile from the airport to the crash scene.

Mr. Wolf said there has never been an accident in the airport's 40 years, but residents of the growing suburban area -- where a new middle school is being built -- are becoming convinced that an airport and a neighborhood do not mix. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Said Joanna Sherman: "I'm not going to be able to sit here anymore and not think of every plane that takes off."

On Thursday, pilot Joan M. Macri, 35, of Middle River and passenger Richard E. Anderson, 55, of Shrewsbury, Pa., were seriously injured when their single-engine Cessna 152 crashed in a freshly plowed field in Finksburg about 2:50 p.m.

Both were flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where they were listed in serious but stable condition last night.

The crash occurred half a mile south of Route 140 and about a block from the old Reservoir Airport.

Police said the plane, which had been rented at Martin State Airport in Middle River, was heading toward Carroll County Regional Airport in Westminster when it crashed.

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