Mother, 2 young sons among 6 dead in plane crash

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6 Die in Maryland Plane Crash

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) -- Residents of a suburban community adjacent to a small, regional airport said they don't give much thought to the jets that fly over their homes daily.

But the sound they heard Monday - a plane flying too low and struggling to remain aloft - was different. It was followed by a horrifying scene on the ground.

A mother and her two young sons, one of them just a month old, were killed Monday morning when a private jet crashed into their two-story wood-frame home, which was engulfed in a fireball immediately, authorities and witnesses said. All three people on board the plane also died.

Marie Gemmell, 36, tried to protect 3-year-old Cole and 1-month-old Devon from the smoke and fire, but there was nothing she could do, Montgomery County police spokesman Capt. Paul Starks said. Her body was found in a second-floor bathroom, lying on top of her sons.

The jet's fuselage 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, 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 plane took off from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and was approaching a runway at the Montgomery County Airpark, about a mile from the crash site, when it went down, Sumwalt said. Witnesses reported that the plane was flying too low and careening wildly before the crash.

"This guy, when I saw him, for a fast jet with the wheels down, I said, 'I think he's coming in too low,'" Fred Pedreira, 67, who lives near the crash site, 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.'"

In 911 calls released by authorities overnight, shock and alarm is evident in the callers' voices.

"I just saw a jet hit a house! The house is on fire," one man said. "When he came in on final (approach), it flamed out and he went straight down into that house."

The home was gutted by 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. No one was injured in the two adjacent homes that also had major damage.

The founder and CEO of a North Carolina clinical research organization was among those on the plane, officials said. Health Decisions of Durham said in a news release that Dr. Michael Rosenberg was among those killed. The other two passengers were not immediately identified.

Rosenberg was a pilot who crashed a different plane in Gaithersburg on March 1, 2010, according a government official who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be named. Investigators were still trying to determine if Rosenberg was at the controls at the time of Monday's crash.

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Maryland plane crash - December 9, 2014
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Mother, 2 young sons among 6 dead in plane crash
A small plane crashed into a neighborhood near a Maryland airport on Monday and set several houses on fire, a fire department spokesman said. The plane crashed into a home near the Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, a Washington, D.C. suburb, county fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said in a statement.
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: A flight recorder is carried from a plane that went down in a neighborhood on Monday December 08, 2014 in Gaithersburg, MD. (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Engines from ill fated #Embraer jet loaded on trailer as @NTSB combs wreckage. #Gaithersburg http://t.co/Js1Yx32Oqn
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: Utility workers and emergency personnel work near the site where a small plane crashed into a residential neighborhood December 8, 2014 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The three occupants of the plane were killed in the crash, and investigators are searching for three people who are unaccounted for on the ground. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: Utility workers and emergency personnel work near the site where a small plane crashed into a residential neighborhood December 8, 2014 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The three occupants of the plane were killed in the crash, and investigators are searching for three people who are unaccounted for on the ground. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
GAITHERSBURG - DECEMBER 8: Officers console Ken Gemmell after a small plane crashed into a Gaithersburg, Md. neighborhood on Monday, December 8, 2014. Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer said that at 6 people were confirmed dead, including Gemmell's wife and two of their children. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DEC 08: Three people were killed in this house after it caught fire due to a plane that crashed just yards away. A plane crashed into houses on Drop Forge Lane in Gaithersburg, Maryland today. Three persons were killed in the plane and 3 persons were killed in one of the homes. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: Police personnel block a portion of Snouffer School Road due to a plane crash on Monday December 08, 2014 in Gaithersburg, MD. (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 8: The scene of a small plane crash into a residential neighborhood on December, 08, 2014 in Gaithersburg, MD. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Marie Gemmell and her three-year-old son Cole, shown here in an earlier photo, were killed in the fire caused by the crash. (Facebook)
Firefighters stand outside a smoking house where a small plane crashed in Gaithersburg, Md., Monday Dec. 8, 2014. A small, private jet has crashed into a house in Maryland's Montgomery County, and a fire official says at least three people on board were killed. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
A picture of the Gemmell's house from two years ago, almost to the day. (Facebook)
Cole Gemmell, from two years ago, not enjoying a visit to Santa Claus. (Facebook)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: Firefighters inspect the scene after a small passenger plane crashed into a residential area, engulfing one home in flames and damaging two others in Gaithersburg, USA on December 8, 2014. So far the three passengers on the plane are confirmed dead with other injuries unknown. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A more recent photo of Cole Gemmell. (Facebook)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: A damaged home is seen after a small passenger plane crashed into a residential area, engulfing one home in flames and damaging two others in Gaithersburg, USA on December 8, 2014. So far the three passengers on the plane are confirmed dead with other injuries unknown. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Michael J. Rosenberg, a prominent North Carolina doctor and CEO of Health Decisions, was the pilot of the downed jet, family have confirmed. (Health Decisions)
This, according to FlightAware, is the Embraer Phenom executive jet that went down Monday morning. (FlightAware)
Firefighters stand outside a house in Gaithersbug, Md., Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, where a small plane crashed. A small, private jet has crashed into a house in Maryland's Montgomery County, and a fire official says at least three people on board were killed. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Montgomery County, Md., firefighters walk to the house where a small plane crashed in Gaithersburg, Md., Monday Dec. 8, 2014. A small, private jet has crashed into a house in Maryland's Montgomery County, and a fire official says at least three people on board were killed. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
A firefighter stands outside a smoldering house where a small plane crashed in Gaithersburg, Md., Monday Dec. 8, 2014. A small, private jet has crashed into a house in Maryland's Montgomery County, and a fire official says at least three people on board were killed. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
(Pete Piringer)
Montgomery County, Md. firefighters stand outside a house where a small plane crashed in Gaithersburg, Md., Monday Dec. 8, 2014. A small, private jet has crashed into a house in Maryland's Montgomery County, and a fire official says at least three people on board were killed. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: Utility workers and emergency personnel work near the site where a small plane crashed into a residential neighborhood December 8, 2014 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The three occupants of the plane were killed in the crash, and investigators are searching for three people who are unaccounted for on the ground. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Plane crash #Gaithersburg #MD http://t.co/O4zZFw6aoW
Plane crash # Gaithersburg #MD http://t.co/mYeGyxczek
G'Burg Plane crash - MCFRS have fire(s) knocked down, several home were on fire, plane crashed into 1, damaged others http://t.co/cTWFu6IEDo
U/D plane into a house Drop Forge Lane, G'Burg, several house damaged,#mcfrs FFs involved search, rescue & firefight http://t.co/or3I2TJ4Ii
G'Burg plane crash - twin engine jet plane came down near houses on Drop Forge Lane near Blue Smoke Lane http://t.co/pa2J8IDXqW
@nbcwashington photo seconds after crash from another plane overhead. Photo credit: Alex King http://t.co/XlAI1DQ4zK
The wreckages of a small plane sits in a house driveway after crashing in Gaithersburg, Md., Monday Dec. 8, 2014. A small, private jet has crashed into a house in Maryland's Montgomery County, and a fire official says at least three people on board were killed. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The window of a house is damage after a small plane crashed into the house in Gaithersburg, Md., Monday Dec. 8, 2014. A small, private jet has crashed into a house in Maryland's Montgomery County, and a fire official says at least three people on board were killed. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: Firefighters inspect the scene after a small passenger plane crashed into a residential area, engulfing one home in flames and damaging two others in Gaithersburg, USA on December 8, 2014. So far the three passengers on the plane are confirmed dead with other injuries unknown. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: Firefighters inspect the scene after a small passenger plane crashed into a residential area, engulfing one home in flames and damaging two others in Gaithersburg, USA on December 8, 2014. So far the three passengers on the plane are confirmed dead with other injuries unknown. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) examines wreckage near the site where a small plane crashed into a residential neighborhood December 8, 2014 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The three occupants of the plane were killed in the crash, and investigators are searching for three people who are unaccounted for on the ground. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) examines wreckage at the site where a small plane crashed into a residential neighborhood December 8, 2014 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The three occupants of the plane were killed in the crash, and investigators are searching for three people who are unaccounted for on the ground. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
GAITHERSBURG, MD - DECEMBER 08: An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) (NTSB) examines wreckage near the site where a small plane crashed into a residential neighborhood December 8, 2014 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The three occupants of the plane were killed in the crash, and investigators are searching for three people who are unaccounted for on the ground. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said Tuesday that the county would review policies and procedures at the airport, including the paths of approach to the runways.

"When you have an incident like this, it calls into question the safety," Leggett said during an appearance on NewsChannel 8, a local cable channel. "We certainly owe it to the community to go back and check and evaluate, and we will do that."

Including Monday's crash, there have been 30 accidents at the Montgomery County Airpark in the past 31 years, according to NTSB records. Before Monday, the most recent fatal crash was in 1990, and most of the recent crashes involved minor or no injuries.

Steve Hedges, a spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and a pilot who knows the Gaithersburg airport well, said many of the recent incidents would be better characterized as hard landings, and some of them occurred during flight instruction.

"That's not unusual in an instructional environment. Things happen when people are learning how to fly," Hedges said Tuesday. "I think it's a very safe airport, actually."

NTSB investigators recovered the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from the plane, and they were in good condition, Sumwalt said. Investigators planned to remain on the scene for up to seven days collecting evidence.

The agency planned to look into everything that could have led to the crash, including crew experience and proficiency, training and procedures, equipment performance, weather and other environmental factors such as birds, Sumwalt said.

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