The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 3, 2013

Skydiving planes collide in Wis; minor injuries

Skydiving instructor Mike Robinson was at 12,000 feet, just seconds away from his fourth and final jump of the day, when a second plane carrying other skydivers struck the aircraft he was in, sending them all tumbling toward the ground.

None of the nine skydivers or two pilots sustained serious injury when the two planes collided in midair Saturday evening in far northwest Wisconsin near Lake Superior. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration were in the area Sunday talking to those involved, and the cause of the incident was still being investigated, said FAA spokesman Roland Herwig.

Robinson, an instructor and safety adviser for Skydive Superior, said the skydivers had gone up for their last jump of the day — called the "sunset load" — and the two planes were flying in formation. It was supposed to be a routine jump, and a fun one for Robinson, who usually dives as a trainer.

All of the skydivers were instructors or coaches and had hundreds, if not thousands, of jumps under their belts. It was Robinson's 937th jump.

"We do this all the time," Robinson said. "We just don't know what happened for sure that caused this."

He and three other skydivers were in the lead plane, and all four had climbed out onto the step at the side of the Cessna 182 and were poised to jump. The plane behind theirs had five skydivers on board, three in position to jump and two more inside the plane, at the ready.

"We were just a few seconds away from having a normal skydive when the trail plane came over the top of the lead aircraft and came down on top of it," he said. "It turned into a big flash fireball, and the wing separated."

"All of us knew we had a crash. ... The wing over our head was gone, so we just left," he added.

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