2 planes collide over Superior, 1 crashes; all 11 aboard OK

  • Article by: JOHN LUNDY , Duluth News Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2013 - 7:18 AM

Two planes collide over Superior, one crashes; all 11 aboard OK

 

Two small airplanes carrying skydivers collided over Superior at dusk Saturday, causing the lead plane to break into pieces, with debris falling across a swath of southern sections of town.

Only minor injuries were reported among the 11 people aboard the planes. The mid-air collision and its aftermath were seen by numerous witnesses in the Twin Ports.

“We were just kind of lucky that we were at the point where we were out of the airplane,” said Mike Robinson, a skydiving instructor who was one of four jumpers on the first plane, a Cessna 182. “If we’d been back in the rear of the airplane when they collided it might have been a little bit different.”

All nine of the skydivers aboard the two planes were already jumping or preparing to jump when the collision occurred at a height of 12,000 feet above the Superior Menard’s, Robinson said.

The four jumpers aboard the lead plane - the one that broke apart - landed without incident. The pilot of that plane used an emergency parachute to also jump safely, Robinson said, but he sustained some cuts and was taken to an area hospital for treatment.

Robinson didn’t know the pilot’s name but said he was from the Twin Cities and went by the nickname “Tweak.”

“He may need some stitches, but he’s not seriously hurt,” Robinson said in the Skydive Superior building as other skydivers quietly packed their gear.

The five jumpers aboard the second plane, a Cessna 185, also jumped while pilot Blake Wedan of Superior landed safely at the Superior Airport without incident in spite of damage to its propellers, Robinson said.

“The pilot did a great job being able to land it,” he said.

Both planes are owned by Skydive Superior.

All nine of the jumpers were veteran skydivers, Robinson said. Many, like him, are instructors at Skydive Superior.

“It requires a really strong comfort level to be able to do this,” said Robinson, who has been skydiving for 12 years.

He said the accident, which occurred just before 6 p.m., developed during an ordinary run with the second plane closely following the first.

“We don’t know for sure yet but what we think happened was the trail plane got caught in the wash of the wing and caused them to bump,” said Robinson, 64, of Gnesen Township.

Both wings came off the first plane, he said. The fuselage ended up in the Head of the Lakes Fairground, one wing landed off an airport runway and the other, which caught fire, may have landed in or near Nemadji Golf Course, he said.

Most of the skydivers landed in the area of the airport where they would normally land, Robinson said. The pilot was using an older, round parachute that he couldn’t steer

Everyone remained calm through the experience, he said, although he had never had such a close call. “And we’ve done these kinds of jumps hundreds of times.”

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