NTSB releases preliminary report into Gaithersburg small plane crash

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on the small plane that crashed into power lines in the Gaithersburg area of Montgomery County last month - and it appears to place some blame for the crash on the pilot.

FOX 5’s Melanie Alnwick says the report - a statement of findings - says the pilot was having trouble navigating several miles out from the crash site.

The conditions were not good for flying that evening. It was dark and foggy - a situation that required the use of instruments which the pilot, 66-year-old Patrick Merkle, said he was using

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According to the report, air traffic control advised Merkle to use one approach to the airpark runway, but he preferred a different route.

Another plane approaching at the same time told air traffic control the weather was below minimal conditions and requested a diversion to a different airport. Merkle’s plane continued on, the report said.

The report adds the pilot didn’t follow instructions for corrective actions.

The plane crashed Sunday, Nov. 27 near Rothbury Drive and Goshen Road in the Montgomery Village area of Gaithersburg. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel rescued 65-year-old Merkle and the passenger, 66-year-old Jan Williams, the following morning. Officials say they were in contact with them via cell phone while they were trapped. The crash caused power outages to thousands of homes and businesses in the area.