Mark Cole and his sister were driving on Route 2 this morning when they saw a plane heading toward Lee Airport that looked like it was coming in too high and too fast.
Suddenly, as it was turning, it went down.
Mark, 16, a county Fire Department volunteer and Civil Air Patrol member, drove to the Edgewater airport and found the soybean field where the plane had crashed.
After jumping over a fence, he said, he helped pull the pilot out of the plane and called 911.
The pilot suffered potentially life-threatening head injuries and was flown by state police to the Shock-Trauma Center at University Hospital in Baltimore, said Lt. Frank Fennell, a county Fire Department spokesman. His condition wasn’t available.
Donald Dilks, owner of Dilks Aircraft LLC of Edgewater, said he believed his 65-year-old brother, Ralph, was the pilot. Ralph Dilks was supposed to pick his brother up at Lee Airport this morning, and they were going to fly to Ocean City, N.J., for lunch with their mother.
Donald Dilks said his brother has been flying for more than 30 years.
The crash was reported at 9:43 a.m., and fire crews got to the single-engine, four-seater plane at 9:49 after cutting through a fence to reach it.
Several other people who were nearby saw or heard the crash and rushed to help, too, including Ralph Robey and Don Lee, a plumber who was working at Mr. Robey’s house.
Mr. Lee said limbs were still falling from the trees the plane clipped as he jumped a fence and ran through brush to get to the plane, ripping his jeans and getting cuts on his arm in the process.
The pilot was in the fetal position inside the plane.
The bystanders weren’t sure at first whether to take him out or wait for firefighters, but quickly decided to take him out when someone warned the plane could catch fire.
Gwen Brewster, who has lived next to the airport for 20 years, said she knew something was wrong when she heard a “throaty and raspy and very loud” noise that sounded like a boat in neutral.
“It wasn’t right,” she said.
Ms. Brewster then heard a huge crash.
Van Lee, an airport official who’s no relation to Don Lee, said his sister heard what sounded like the engine of the Cirrus SR22 “quit.”
Mr. Lee said that kind of plane has “parachute” capabilities that can allow for a soft landing even when the engine goes out.
Late this morning, branches and pieces of the plane, including one that appeared to be a door, were scattered in the backyard of a home at 174 Lees Lane.
About an hour after the crash, the white plane still stood upright in the field. Its left wing was gone, a jagged scar marking where it had been torn off, and the right wing was severely damaged as well.
“It’s pretty totaled, completely totaled,” Mark Cole said of the plane. “The engine’s not where it’s supposed to be.”