Small Plane Crashes Into Virginia Apartment

Three people suffered minor injuries in crash; residents still in shock to find plane in living room

"Mayday, mayday — engine out," said the pilot, in a controlled voice, to air controllers as his small plane struggled to stay aloft early Friday morning.

In audio files obtained by News4 Washington, the pilot who identified himself as "D.C. Photo" is heard describing his predicament to air traffic controllers, who clear other planes out of the way and try to get the Cessna 177B to Dulles International Airport.

They could not.

"Okay, I think we’re, um, we’re not going to make the airport," the pilot says. "We’re heading for a road just before the Dulles Toll Road."

The small plane crashed into the living room of a Herndon, Va., apartment Friday morning. Three people suffered minor injuries.

David Ventura was still in shock hours after he awoke to the plane inside his Dulles Greene apartment on Astoria Circle.

"You are shocked; you don't know what's going on," Ventura said.

Two people were aboard the aircraft when it began experiencing electrical problems while low on fuel around 12:30 a.m. and crashed into the home where four adults and two children were sleeping.

Ventura said all he heard was an explosion. He told News4 Washington's Megan McGrath when he opened his bedroom door, two people and a plane were in his living room. He recalled one of the men saying, "Is everyone OK here?"

Both people on the Cessna and one person in the apartment were injured, but all are expected to recover, said Captain Willie Bailey with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue.

One resident — a 33-year-old woman — and the pilot of the plane, William Larson, 61, of Vienna, were transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital. Larson's injuries were described as serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

His passenger, Tache Alejandro of Orlando, Fla., was treated at the scene.

The two work for the Vienna-based Aerial Photographers, LLC. The Cessna is registered to the company, according the FAA.

Larson and Alejandro had left from Northeast Philadelphia Airport and were taking infrared photographs from the air when their plane began experiencing electrical problems, according to Virginia State Police.

Because the plane was also running low on fuel, Larson contacted air traffic controllers and asked to land at Dulles International Airport instead of Manassas Regional Airport before they crashed.

"It could have been a whole lot worse," said Bailey. "It's a blessing that no one got killed or any major injuries."

The plane was removed from the building around 7 a.m. There is significant damage to the exterior of the building. Inspectors will be on scene to check the infrastructure.

Bailey said the plane's lack of fuel may have prevented a fire from starting.

"Good thing it didn't have any [fuel] when it crashed into the living room, because we'd probably have a totally different scenario right now," he said. 

The Red Cross is assisting nine adults, seven children and three dogs evacuated from the apartment building.

The NTSB and FAA are investigating the crash.

News4 has obtained the Cessna's records, which are clean and up to date. The plane was last inspected May 1.

Inset photos courtesy of Virginia State Police.

Vine video below via @MeganMcGrath4.


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