‘A Plane Just Landed on You’: Driver Recounts Collision With Small Plane

Ryan McClain was on his way to Annapolis with a friend Thursday when he thought he saw "a crimson and white ball" hurtling toward his car.

What he was actually seeing was almost beyond comprehension.

A single-engine, fixed-wing plane was failing to take off from the adjacent Freeway Airport. Instead, it crashed onto Route 50 in Bowie — and into McClain's sedan.

"We just kind of spin out and head towards the median and [were] trying to get away from some other cars that were coming through, and then it was just — I passed out from there, I think, once I hit the steering wheel," he said.

Incredibly, neither McClain nor anyone else were seriously hurt in the incident, leading the county fire chief to call the outcome "a miracle."

However, the moments after the crash remain foggy for McClain.

His friend was able to climb out through the shattered windshield, but McClain needed help. His friend and EMS workers were able to help McClain escape through the back of the car.

"[I] stood up for a minute. Everything was a little bit hazy at that point and still kind of like, I don't remember it 100 percent," he said.

McClain didn't realize he'd been hit by a plane until he was standing next to his damaged vehicle and saw the wreckage. Chopper4 footage showed one wing of the plane was severed and came to rest on the roadway next to McClain's silver car. 

Even then, it took awhile to sink in. "A bunch of people who were with the police and EMS were like, 'Yeah, a plane just landed on top of you,'" he said.

"I mean, I was pretty blown away. ... It took me a little awhile to come to, so looking at the plane, I couldn't recognize that it wasn't just an everyday thing," McClain said.

He sat down in a police car, and he and his friend were taken to a hospital.

Incredibly, the two people in the plane were able to walk away from the crash.

"It's pretty wild," McClain said. "It's insane to actually think about. I mean, especially looking at the damage to both the plane and the car, just that, yeah, everybody was able to come to on their own about and then being transported or not having to get any care."

McClain was diagnosed with a compression fracture in his bottom two vertebrae, but he is confident he'll recover soon.

The pilot of the plane, Warren Tolson Jr., and his passenger refused transport to a hospital but later drove themselves there.

Tolson had been attempting to take off from Freeway Airport in Bowie when the plane crashed on eastbound Route 50 at Church Road, clipping McClain's vehicle.

"It was a little bit of an instrumentation issue on the takeoff, and made a decision to abort the takeoff," Tolson said.

"We're happy to hear they weren't hurt seriously or anything like that," said Michael Garrah, the passenger on the plane.

"A miracle today here in Prince George's County," Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale said Wednesday. "Amazing that [there was] no fire, no fuel spillage at all, so yes, we're very fortunate today."

Records show the plane, a 1978 fixed-wing single-engine aircraft, is registered to a resident of Greenbelt, Maryland, and was licensed to fly. 

Tolson said he has been flying planes since 1990 and this was his first crash.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were going to investigate, police said Wednesday.

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