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

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

“It was more of a matter-of-fact thing,” Robinson said. “We were just kind of lucky that we were at the point where we were out of the airplane. If we’d been back in the rear of the airplane when they collided it might have been a little bit different.”

There were no reports of any injuries on the ground. The jumpers could see parts of the plane falling above them as they descended, Robinson said.

“We’re in free fall, so we’re falling about 120 miles an hour vertically down,” he said. “But then we open our parachutes, and now all the sudden they’re falling faster than we are. … Fortunately, everybody kept it together so they just avoided (the debris).”

Braydon Kurtz of Superior was duck hunting along the St. Louis River when he witnessed the collision.

“We heard a boom and looked up and there’s a fireball and smoke,” he said.

Kurtz said he saw two planes - “one was circling down and one was going down straight.”

Mike Plaunt was at his home in Superior’s Billings Park neighborhood, where he often watches skydivers and hears their planes. On Saturday evening, the engine noise he heard was unusual and drew his attention.

“I went outside and looked and could see six parachuters and a drop plane, and then there was something spiraling down. I couldn’t identify what it was ... it had a trail of smoke and I had never seen that before.”

There was a point of light with the smoke, and Plaunt’s initial thought was that perhaps one of the skydivers had dropped a flare.

Seconds later, Casey Trachsel of Superior was driving with relatives on Tower Avenue near the Head of the Lakes Fairgounds when “we heard a loud buzzing sound coming really close, and we saw a gray object torpedo into the ground.”

What fell from the sky didn’t look like a plane, she said, in the couple of seconds between when they heard the noise and saw the impact. After the fuselage hit the ground, she said, the front end of the plane was crushed, embedded into the earth.

“It doesn’t seem real,” she said about an hour after witnessing the crash. “I’m still kind of in shock.”

Superior Fire Department Battalion Chief Vern Johnson said fire crews initially dealt with numerous reports relayed from eyewitnesses. The first call came in at 6:05 p.m.

“We had all kinds of rabbits we were trying to herd out there,” he said. “We were all over tarnation out there in case anyone needed medical help or if something was burning.”

It was the second incident this year involving Skydive Superior. Two skydivers were rescued after they landed off the shore of Lake Superior during the Lark O’ the Lake Festival in July.

Roland Herwig, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Agency in Oklahoma City, said Saturday night the National Transportation Safety Board had been notified about Saturday’s incident.

“All aspects of safety involved in this will be investigated,” he said.

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