Joe Arrington thought a car had hit his house, or a truck hit a speed bump too fast on South Bruce Street.
Then he looked out his window Thursday morning and saw the small airplane that had crashed into a neighbor's house 20 feet from his own in the Parkway Village community of Maryland City.
"Of course I was scared. I've never seen anything like this," Arrington said.
Police said the crash of the single-engine plane injured 70-year-old pilot Ronald H. Dixon of Bowie, who was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He was in critical condition Thursday afternoon, according to hospital officials.
Maryland State Police said the Beechcraft Musketeer took off from Suburban Airport, a small airfield just south of the crash site, just after 10 a.m. But it failed to gain sufficient altitude, hit a tree and then crashed into two homes.
"I heard sputtering noises, then just a big bang and that was it," said Andy Smith, who lives in Parkway Village. "It was going to happen sooner or later — these planes fly so low all the time."
Arrington ran outside after seeing the crashed plane.
"I saw my neighbor and I yelled, 'Call 911!' " he said.
"We dragged the pilot away from the plane, about 25 feet. I told him, 'It's OK, it's going to be all right,' " said Arrington, who had blood on his shirt. "He told me his ankle was broken. He was conscious enough to know he's injured. … I kept talking to the gentleman, just to let him know he wasn't alone."
No one was in the homes that were damaged, and there were no other injuries. There was no fire, but firefighters sprayed foam to reduce the possibility of one starting, said Battalion Chief Steve Thompson of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
Arrington said he was concerned about fire.
"I was thinking: This plane could go up in flames, because the fuel was still running. It's fortunate nothing went up in flames — it's so hot out and there was so much fuel."
The National Transportation Safety Board is leading an investigation with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Maryland State Police. An initial report will take at least 10 days, an NTSB spokesman said.
Suburban Airport administrator Carl E. Kesselring said the small facility is owned by developers and has 17 planes based there.
Kesselring described Dixon as an experienced pilot. He believed Dixon had just sold the plane and might have been delivering it to a new owner in Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, the plane remained on the ground, smashed into the corner of a beige mobile home. Behind it was a cluster of branches, and the deck on the home across the street was damaged.
Both damaged homes were declared uninhabitable. The American Red Cross was offering food, clothing, shelter and counseling to the residents, a spokesman said.
Suburban has seen seven accidents in the past 20 years, according to the FAA, but Kesselring said there have been no deaths since the airport was built on the site of a former pig farm some 60 years ago.
In 2009, a pilot landing in dark, gusty conditions clipped trees and sustained damage to a wing, and in 2008 the pilot of an experimental aircraft suffered minor injuries after the plane rolled and ended up in the trees nearby.
There were two incidents in June 2007. Fuel problems forced one pilot to land on nearby Route 216. Another pilot suffered minor injuries when the plane stalled, hit the runway on its nose and flipped.
In 2000, a plane flipped over; and in 1994, one plane ended up in trees, and another suffered engine failure and crashed into a house short of the runway.