MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the skydivers forced to jump to safety after two planes collided in northern Wis. said Monday that he feels very lucky to be alive.
The two planes collided at 12,000 feet near the Richard I. Bong Airport in Superior, Wis. Saturday afternoon, causing one plane to lose its wing and catch on fire.
Authorities say the two planes were carrying a group of nine skydivers for a tandem jump. But when the planes reached 12,000 feet, the trail plane came over the top of the lead plane and got caught up in its turbulence. The planes then collided, and the lead plane lost its right wing and started on fire.
Mike Robinson was one of the skydivers on that frightening day. He was preparing for his final jump of the day – the 937th skydive jump in his career – when he heard a loud bang, followed by an explosion. Before he knew it, he and his fellow jumpers were in a complete free fall.
Robinson said he and his jumpers were about three or four seconds away from jumping on a normal skydive when the planes collided.
“Normally, we would probably have about 50 feet of separation (between the two planes) and we had that at the time we were climbing out of the aircraft. They just drifted too close together,” he said.
He said once the two planes hit, he and the other skydivers didn’t have a chance to grab on to anything and were flung into an instant free fall.
“We knew we were in trouble at that point,” he said. “Kind of what we had to do was be concerned about getting away from the debris.”
Robinson said he could see the detached wing above them.
“Sort of the odd thing that struck me when I was watching this happen was the wing actually went up above us,” he said. “So the skydivers in my airplane were falling faster than that wing was. It was on fire above us.”