ST. LOUIS — Although Shawn Kinmartin flies planes for a skydiving service, he hadn’t done any skydiving himself — that is until he had to make an emergency jump on Saturday.
On his fourth flight of the day taking jumpers up, Kinmartin was cruising at 11,500 feet over eastern Missouri and southern Illinois when he realized that his final skydiving client had damaged a key piece of gear while jumping out of the plane. During the jump, the skydiver struck the elevator of the aircraft, a part of a plane’s tail that controls its ability to climb and descend.
For the next ten minutes, Kinmartin struggled to fly the aircraft back to an airport in Festus, about 35 miles south of St. Louis. But the pilot knew that the damage was causing him to lose control of the Cessna 182. So he headed towards farm fields to make an emergency jump. Wearing a parachute, the 21-year-old pilot made his way out of the aircraft before it crashed.
“When I jumped out of the aircraft it was at 2,000 feet, so I only had 1,500 feet left till the ground,” Kinmartin told KSDK. “And when I hit the ground the plane spiraled and crashed into the field.”
Kinmartin was carried by the wind and safely landed in a nearby soybean field.
Even though this was the Fly Free Skydiving pilot’s first skydive, Kinmartin, who is also a flight simulation student at Southern Illinois University, says he has practiced different emergency scenarios in the past.
“After I jumped out of the plane, and I knew that I was going to hit … in a field and not actually hit a building or hurt anyone else and my chute finally did deploy; at that point, I kind of hit the rush of skydiving,” he told KSDK.
But he said the whole experience still feels surreal, especially when he looks at the mangled aircraft.
“The plane is completely destroyed, and just thinking to the fact that if I was inside that plane and it crashed the way it did, I wouldn’t be standing here,” Kinmartin told KSDK.
No one was injured in the crash, according to KSDK.