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Skydiving Plane Crash in Montana Kills 5
Flathead County Sheriff’s deputies stand beside the wreckage of a plane that crashed at Lost Praire Skydive center, killing all five people aboard, Saturday, May 12, 2007, west of Marion, Mont. The pilot of the Cessna 182 operated by Skydive Lost Prairie was carrying two skydiving instructors and two trainees to jumps, said Michael Morrill, manager of the business.
May 12, 2007
MARION, Mont. A plane crash killed five members of a group of skydivers Saturday in northwestern Montana, authorities said.
The crash happened late Saturday morning in a field about 30 miles southwest of Kalispell, in an area known as Lost Prairie, Flathead County Sheriff Mike Meehan said. The Federal Aviation Administration in Seattle said the plane went down shortly after takeoff, then burned.
The pilot of the Cessna 182 operated by Skydive Lost Prairie was carrying two skydiving instructors and two trainees to jumps, said Michael Morrill, a manager of the company. He said the plane took off in good weather.
Names of those killed were not released immediately. All were from Montana, Morrill said.
He said the pilot began working for Sky Dive Lost Prairie about 10 days ago and was experienced, with more than 500 hours of flying time. He had a commercial rating, Morrill said.
A woman acquainted with one of the experienced skydivers told The Daily Inter Lake newspaper of Kalispell that she went to the crash site and “wanted to go out there and pull out my friends, but I couldn’t.”
The plane crashed while the woman, Deana Schrader, and her son were in a cabin nearby. The boy, 14-year-old Joseph Skokan, said he was watching television in the cabin, heard a plane take off and “a minute later I heard a boom, looked out the window and saw the plane burning.”
The skydivers were heading off to tandem jumps in which trainees are attached to instructors, who control the parachute that carries both people to the ground, Morrill said. The parachutists were to fly for about 30 minutes, free fall for 30 seconds or so and then have a 5-minute “canopy ride” to the ground, Morrill said.
Skydiving is a relatively small sport in the state, with perhaps 60 or 70 people who are experienced jumpers, said Tina Sanders of Skydive Montana, another business that offers jumps. She said the aficionados are a close-knit group and another skydiver called her about 15 minutes after the crash happened.