C717D Tommy Baker Recognized as "Voice of Hope during Plane Rescue"
By Vice President Mike Russ
December 9, 2022

The officers and members of the Laytonsville District Volunteer Fire Department would like to congradulate volunteer C717D Tommy Baker for his recoginition with the assistance of the plane crash that happened on November 27, 2022, in Montgomery Village. Tommy Baker has been a volunteer with the LDVFD for 27 years. Baker as all the members call him at the station, has gone through hundreds of hours of training to get where he is at. Training included EMT, Fire, Hazmat, Rescue Tech, and Officer training with lots of recerts in between in order to stay up to date on all the new protocols. All of this was done under his own time. We as a department are proud of him and can't wait to see what the future holds.

See story below courtesy of WTOP writer Neal Augenstein:

In his day job, Tom Baker manages 29 county parks for Montgomery Parks. Now he’s being recognized for what he did the night a small plane flew into a transmission tower near Gaithersburg, Maryland, stranding a pilot and passenger for hours.

On Nov. 27, Baker, who is the volunteer deputy fire chief with Laytonsville District Volunteer Fire Department, was giving his children baths when he was alerted to a plane crash, and provided with a location.

Not knowing what to expect, Baker “drove a few miles down the road,” and saw the plane, entangled in live power lines.

Baker parked near the incident’s command vehicle, and reported to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Chief Scott Goldstein.

“Chief Goldstein tells me to get in the back seat of the command vehicle,” recalled Baker. “He then proceeds to say, ‘Call this number.'”

Within seconds, Baker was talking to the plane’s pilot and passenger.

“We started communicating back and forth on their conditions, and plane information, like the weight of the plane, the year, and confirming the tail number, since that would all be part of the investigation,” said Baker.

For about seven hours, Baker relayed information from the pilot to the incident commanders, maintaining contact through Baker’s cellphone.

“At points he couldn’t see us, and we couldn’t see him, because of the fog,” said Baker.

Emergency responders relied on Baker’s communications to ensure the plane’s occupants were stable.

“Their conditions changed throughout,” said Baker. “Sometimes they seemed like they were confused; they were definitely fatigued.”

With the number of challenges posed by a rescue from a dangerous location, Baker said coordinating entities, including the power company, took time.

Baker said a good portion of his role was reassuring the pilot and passenger: “At some point, I think they weren’t believing that we were coming for them.”

A ladder had been extended toward the plane, but conditions still weren’t safe for the two to be rescued.

“At one point, the pilot wanted to grab his passenger and leave the plane,” said Baker. “So, I convinced them to stay where they were.”

Pilot Patrick Merkle and passenger Janet Williams were safely rescued, and transported to the hospital, on Nov. 28. They have since been discharged and are recovering.

Baker was honored by the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission Thursday for his role in the rescue.

“In all my 27 active years as a volunteer, I have never responded to such a call,” Baker said. “This is, in fact, a once in a lifetime incident.”


Harrison December 09, 2022 at 1:31 PM
Excellent work, sir! Job well done!