Man Survives Crash of Small Plane in Prince George's County

The pilot's wife told News4 her husband's incredible story of survival

A small plane crashed in Prince George's County, Maryland, on Monday and the man piloting it used his cellphone to help rescuers find him. 

Gerald Kempen, 64, had just taken off from Potomac Airfield in Fort Washington, Maryland. The weather was perfect for flying, with good visibility.

But shortly after takeoff, something went wrong.

A witness said he heard the engine apparently cut out.

Kempen's plane, a fixed-wing single-engine Piper PA-32R-301, crashed into a wooded area near the 11700 block of Gallahan Road. The plane lopped off the tops of small trees and then crashed into a large tree.

Kempen used his cellphone to call his wife, she told News4 by phone. He sounded dazed and unsure of what had happened, she said.

He called 911, and rescuers stayed on the phone with him until they found him -- walking through the woods.

"He was trying to give us the best location he could," Prince George's County fire department battalion chief Steve Kling said. "The problem was, he was flying I think probably by instruments. He couldn't really give us much on landmarks. He gave us, I believe it was a house in the distance and a barn and some power lines."

Kempen was flown to a hospital for evaluation. His wife said he was disoriented and having memory issues, but was OK. 

The pilot's wife had planned to travel with him from their home in Rhode Island to Maryland and back, to visit their children and grandchildren, but she decided to stay home with a sick grandchild there. 

Kempen had his plane for five years and had flown for years, his wife said. 

Prince George's County Fire & EMS spokesman Mark Brady said the small plane did not pose a fire or hazardous materials risk. 

State and federal authorities are investigating.

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