Federal investigators are investigating a collision between an airplane and a helicopter near a Maryland airport that killed three men but spared two others Thursday afternoon.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is leading the investigation into what caused the Cirrus SR22 plane and a Robinson R44 helicopter to collide mid-air. Investigators spent Friday combing the scene and planned to talk with survivors and air traffic controllers.
NTSB air safety investigator Brian Rayner said a team of experts is making progress and hopes to be able to move the plane and helicopter from the scene to a storage facility for closer examination.
"The reason we're here is to determine what happened and try to prevent it from happening again in the future," Rayner said.
Investigators can retrieve data about air speed, altitude and pitch from the plane, Rayner said.
The crash was reported around 3:40 p.m. Thursday near Monocacy Boulevard and Bucheimer Road just north of Interstate 70 in Frederick, Maryland and about a mile from the Frederick Municipal Airport.
According to the FAA, the plane, a fixed wing, single-engine Cirrus SR 22, was en route to the Frederick Municipal Airport and the R44 helicopter was conducting a training exercise when the two collided mid-air.
A woman from air traffic control is heard screaming on a recording posted on LiveATC.net, "Oh God! Oh God!" followed by an individual saying, "Airplane down and helicopter down."
"911's on the way," another voice is heard saying. The voices on the recording were not of those who passed away.
The helicopter crashed between two rows of storage units, killing all three people aboard.
They've been identified as Christopher Parsons, 29, of Westminster, Maryland; William Jenkins, 47, of Morrison, Colorado, and Breandan MacFawn, 35, of Cumberland, Maryland.
It is unknown who was the pilot of the helicopter, according to State Police.
"The helicopter was destroyed," Rayner said.
There were two people inside the plane -- Scott Graeves, 55, of Brookeville, Maryland, and Gilbert Porter, 75, of Sandy Spring, Maryland. Both were hospitalized as a precaution but were released just hours after the crash. Graeves was the pilot, and had flown the plane from Cleveland, Tennessee.
A parachute that deployed is attached to the frame of the plane and is designed to lower an airplane safely when the pilot is unable to, said Rayner.
Jesse Ault Jr. of Brunswick and his wife, Pamela, saw the crash as he picked her up from her job nearby.
"We headed around the corner to the Wendy's drive-thru, I'm getting ready to pay, and she goes, 'Oh, my God, there's an airplane spiraling out of control.' I looked over and saw the wing of a plane and what looked like a parachute. ... I saw some people tending to the pilot of the plane.''
He said the pilot was hurt and shaken up.
"The pilot had blood up above his nose and on his face,'' Ault said. "You could tell he was visibly shaken.''
Weather didn't appear to be a cause in the crash.
According to records, the airplane is owned by Graeves Auto & Appliance Inc. in Olney, Maryland. The company's website says it's a family-owned business in operation since 1952.
The FAA and NTSB are conducting an investigation.
The municipal airport got a control tower in 2012 after several near-crashes in the area.