Two planes filled with skydivers collided over a field in Wisconsin this weekend, sending both planeloads of skydivers tumbling toward the ground as one of the airplanes lit up the sky in blazing fireball.
The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo Finance) Nov. 4 that nine skydivers and two pilots made it to the ground safely, while the pilot of the second airplane, which took damage to a wing and its propeller, brought the craft safely in for a landing. There were no serious injuries, although one of the pilots had a parachute that couldn't be directed and sustained minor injuries that required medical attention.
But it could have been a lot worse...
Both planes were full of experienced instructors and coaches and the jump was to be the last of the day. the planes were flying in formation. Skydive Superior instructor Mike Robinson was about to enjoy his 937th jump. But then the trailing plane somehow came in atop the lead -- Robinson's -- plane, made contact, and sent it crashing to the ground.
"We do this all the time," Robinson said. "We just don't know what happened for sure that caused this."
There were five people on the lead aircraft, four already positioned to jump when contact from the second plane sent the lead plane tumbling. Three of the five skydivers aboard the second plane were also ready to jump. A video obtained exclusively by NBC News shows the three men being jostled from their perch amidst a blazing fireball that erupted from the lead plane as it was struck from above. The two remaining skydivers in the second plane also quickly jumped from their damaged plane as the pilot wrestled for control. He would eventually guide it safely back to Earth.
At the same time, the sky was filled with nine skydivers and a wingless and blazing aircraft. The pilot of the nosediving plane managed to exit the plane and jump safely to the ground as well.
"It turned into a big flash fireball," Robinson described the near-death incident later, "and the wing separated."
He added: "All of us knew we had a crash. ... The wing over our head was gone, so we just left."
Luckily, the debris from the crashed plane fell harmlessly to the ground.
The plane collision over Wisconsin is the second aerial accident involving skydivers in the past few weeks.
A skydiving accident in Belgium in October resulting in the deaths of 11 people when a piece of a wing disconnected from the plane shortly after take-off, sending the aircraft into a nosediving plunge. Those aboard were celebrating a birthday of one of the parachutists, Fox News reported, and were unable to escape the falling plane. The cause of the plane crash is currently under investigation.