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Mike Robinson was at 12,000 feet (3,650 metres), just seconds away from his last jump of the day, when a second plane carrying other skydivers struck the aircraft he was in, sending everyone tumbling toward the ground.
None of the nine skydivers or two pilots sustained serious injuries when the two planes collided in mid-air Saturday evening in far northwest Wisconsin near Lake Superior. Authorities still didn't know Sunday what caused the accident.
Robinson, an instructor and safety adviser for Skydive Superior, said he and three other skydivers were in a lead plane Saturday, and all four had climbed out onto the step to jump. The plane behind theirs had five skydivers on board, three ready to jump and two still inside the plane.
"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.
"Looking around, we're seeing the wing that came off. We're seeing it's on fire and there are just parts of the airplane floating in the air with us," he said. "We were falling faster than those parts ... So the concern was we get away from the crash area."
Robinson said the skydivers had parachutes that allowed them to steer themselves away from the debris, and toward the planned landing spot. They opened their parachutes between 3,000 and 5,000 feet (900 and 1,500 metres) and landed safely.
The pilot of his plane had an emergency parachute that cannot be steered, Robinson said, so he landed elsewhere. He had minor injuries and was taken to the hospital.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said the lead plane broke into three parts, with debris landing on the airport property and an adjacent retail area.
Thing is, there's no such thing as a perfectly good airplane!