US skydivers and pilots escape plane crash 'fireball'

Skydivers Mike Robinson and Barry Sinex describe the moment the planes collided

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Details have emerged of how nine US skydivers and two pilots escaped as their planes crashed in midair, turning one of the aircraft into a "fireball".

Four skydivers were preparing to jump when their plane collided with another, carrying five skydivers, at 12,000ft (3,600m) in the state of Wisconsin.

All the skydivers safely jumped. One pilot ejected with a parachute and the other safely landed the second plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating Saturday's near tragedy.

All of the skydivers were either instructors or coaches who have completed hundreds of previous jumps.

'Boom'

Instructor Mike Robinson, 64, said that he and three other skydivers had climbed out on to the step of the Cessna 182 in preparation for their jump.

Start Quote

Mike Robinson, a skydive instructor and safety adviser

Everybody responded just as they should, including the pilots”

End Quote Mike Robinson Skydive instructor

"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 watched as the aircraft fell in pieces from the sky.

The pilot of the plane, who ejected with a parachute that could not be steered, suffered minor injuries.

The second pilot landed the plane safely at Richard I Bong Airport, Douglas County.

A witness on the ground told the Duluth News Tribune he heard a "boom and looked up and there's a fireball and smoke".

The plane that remained intact after Saturday’s midair collision sits dripping oil in a hangar on 3 November 2013 Bruised but intact, the other plane sits in a hangar after the collision

Braydon Kurtz said one plane "was circling down and one was going down straight".

Mr Robinson said while everyone responded professionally and quickly, they were lucky to have been in place to jump when the collision happened.

"It might've been a lot worse," he said. "Everybody, to a person, responded just as they should, including the pilots."

A skydiving accident in Belgium last month killed 11 people when a plane went into a nosedive as part of its wing broke minutes after take-off.

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