Plane crashes in Bowie

A plane crash in Bowie is causing major traffic problems on Route 50. (Photo: WJLA)

BOWIE, Md. (WJLA) -- Investigators are still trying to determine why a small plane crashed Monday afternoon, an accident that seriously injured three people.

The crash happened on Church Road near Route 50 in Prince George's County at about 3:45 p.m. while the plane, a single-engine Mooney M20, went down while trying to take off.

The three people on board all suffered serious injuries. They include the pilot, 58-year-old{ }Alireza Tivay of Washington, and his two passengers: 48-year-old Deborah Tucker of Alexandria and 45-year-old Seth Sharpe of Laurel.

Several witnesses, including Carderal Jones, held their breaths as the now-mangled small plane swept across the top of a truck and took a nose-dive into the emergency shoulder.

"Right over my head," Jones said. "Policeman told me if I had been in an 18-wheeler, it would have took this right off."

But it was the cries from the plane’s front passenger seat that sent him racing into the wreckage.

"She was just screaming, screaming, screaming," he describes. "We couldn't pull her out because we didn't know what happened to her."

The pilot was badly injured, while in the backseat, another man was so shocked that he kept repeating, "I think both of my knees are busted open...I think both of my knees are broken."

A preliminary investigation reveals that Alireza was piloting the plane as it tried to take off from Bowie's Freeway Airport. It failed to gain altitude, though, and quickly went down into a bank of trees just off the freeway.

The three were trapped inside the aircraft until crews later cut away the top of the plane in order to free them.

A doctor and two off-duty police officers happened to be driving on Route 50 and aided Jones, himself disabled due to a double-hip replacement.

Eyewitnesses and pilot Jonathan Neal watched as the plane struggled to take off before it crashed.

"I was at the end of the runway getting ready to take off ...Basically he went and took off, and went straight down in the tree line," said Neal.

Medivac choppers were on the scene within minutes, ferrying two of the badly-injured to shock trauma and shutting down Route 50 in both directions in the process. There was traffic for miles and miles.

"I've seen it bad, but this is the worst I've seen it in a long time," said Ryan Orr of Sterling.

Route 50 was already choked with travelers returning from area beaches, and after more than two hours, all but one lane of Route 50 in Bowie reopened.

"(It's) very fortunate no one was in the slow lane of traffic," Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said. "They likely would have been wiped out by it."

As the shock of the crash settled in, Jones was consumed by what he calls the shocking behavior of other motorists.

"The majority of the people were taking pictures," he said.

As of Tuesday, all three passengers remain in critical condition at Baltimore Shock Trauma.

Employees at the airport would not allow access to the aircraft today, but the FAA was on-site earlier in the day. The NTSB is leading the investigation to determine the cause.