BOWIE – Four people were injured after being involved in an accident where a small plane collided with a car on U.S. Route 50 after taking off from Freeway Airport on Sept. 12.
According to Maryland State Police, calls came in around 11:20 a.m. of a small plane crash on the highway. The plane, a 1978 Mooney M20J, was attempting to take off from the Bowie airport, located on Church Road, when the accident happened.
The plane crashed into the highway, hitting a car driving northbound before stopping on the median. The two passengers in the vehicle, Eric Diprospero, 31, and Ryan McClain, 29, were transported by Prince George’s County Fire and EMS crew members to an area hospital for treatment but were reportedly doing well following the incident.
Investigators are still trying to determine what happened to cause the crash. The crash did not produce a fire or spill any fuel on the roadway.
“We’re just lucky that we survived it,” Michael Garrah, one of the passengers on the plane said in a brief press conference following the accident.
The pilot of the plane, Julius Tolson Jr. 58, of Laurel, said he has been flying since 1990 and was happy to come away without an injury. According to Tolson, they have operated their plane from Freeway Airport many times without incident.
“Glad I’m not hurt,” Tolson said. “(I’m) Blessed I’m not hurt. Still overloaded. We’re still running on adrenaline, but we’re doing okay.”
Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the crash site to investigate the scene, according to the Prince George’s County Fire Department. The six-lane highway was shut down on both sides as officials investigated and cleaned up after the accident. All the lanes reopened at around 3:30 p.m.
“We could have got hit by a tractor-trailer,” Garrah said. “And I think by the way the plane spun, I think it absorbed a lot of energy, like the wings kind of hit things and absorbed the energy, so honestly we were lucky it happened the way it did.”
“We are relieved that there were no life-threatening injuries after a small plane crashed on Route 50 this morning,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement. “Our sincere thanks to the first responders who acted so quickly to help those involved.”
The accident comes as the county council considers legislation that would bring development onto the airport property. The Rodenhauser family, who has operated the airport since 1947, want to develop on the land following years of struggling to keep it afloat. According to Kim Rodenhauser, her father, Stan, wrote a letter before he died in July explaining the need to build a new development on the property. According to the letter, the airport has had 10 fatal crashes, including one in 1998, where a small plane struck a house while his wife and daughter were inside.
“Accidents are a reality in general aviation,” Stan Rodenhauser wrote.
City officials and residents say that they believe putting housing on the property is not a good idea due to the potential risks of having accidents. During the Sept. 10 council meeting, Council Chair Todd Turner said they would take more time to consider the proposal before making a final determination.