ELLICOTT, Colo. -- An airplane carrying sky divers caught fire after taking off from Colorado Springs East Airport on Sunday. There were 11 sky divers on board, including two who were first-time jumpers. The airport is about 25 miles east of Colorado Springs near Ellicott.
A bird strike on one of the plane's propellers might have caused the fire, according to Out of the Blue Skydiving co-owner John Mahan. The plane was able to return to the airport and make a safe landing.
Mahan said he was one of the two tandem jumpers who were taking out the first-time jumpers. They were a father celebrating his 60th birthday and his son.
Mahan said the impact to the left propeller happened at about 2,600 feet. The engine caught fire and the pilot shut it down. The pilot then ordered an emergency evacuation, Mahan said.
The nine solo sky divers were out of the plane within 30 seconds. Mahan said the tandem jumpers made some extra checks on the rigging for the safety of the passengers, but they were still out within a minute of the pilot's order.
He was with the father and was the last out of the plane. Mahan said he was able to see the plane head back to the airport and saw it reach the runway but didn't see the actual landing because that was out of his view.
All 11 jumpers landed safely in an area outside of their normal landing zone, so it took them a while to figure out what road to go to for crews to find them and pick them up.
Mahan said they usually climb to an altitude of 12,000 feet before jumping, but the engine caught fire just three minutes into the flight.
The industry standard is to deploy the parachute no lower than 2,500 feet, so they were close to that when they jumped at 2,600 feet.
No injuries were reported.