May 27, 1997 in Nation/World

Surviving Sky Diver Might Quit Investigation Of Fatal Plane Crash Indicates Her Presence On Wing May Have Started Stall

From Wire Reports
 

The woman who parachuted to safety as a plane spun out of control and crashed, killing six, was the least-experienced sky diver on board.

Now, she says, she may give up the sport.

“It’s the kind of experience that makes you ask yourself questions about life,” Carol O’Connell told the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in Monday’s edition.

“I’m thinking it’s not for me.”

The Cessna 210-5 took off from Homestead General Airport on Sunday and crashed about a mile away in a sweet-potato field. A videotape of the crash shows the plane spinning to the ground at a 45 degree angle, its nose down.

Investigators said Monday the five sky divers who were killed were seated unbelted on the cabin floor.

Their positions and the possible shifting of their bodies just as the plane entered its fatal spin are seen as a possible cause of the crash.

The crucial moment occurred when O’Connell, 43, stepped onto a strut outside the plane, preparing to jump, said one experienced pilot who saw the plane spiral to the ground.

O’Connell was standing on a small metal platform just outside the cabin, ready to jump, when the plane slowed and began to twirl downward.

“When the lady goes out on the wing, that creates drag and that is what could have caused the plane to lose just enough velocity to begin to stall,” said Daryl Martin, president of Biscayne Helicopters and a small-plane pilot who was fishing nearby.

“That loss of velocity is what would cause them to go into that spin they were in, and without belts, those people would slide to one side of the cabin,” Martin said. “That weight shift would make it hard for the pilot to pull out of it with everyone shifted on one side of the plane.”

Realizing the plane was in trouble, O’Connell jumped from 3,500 feet without getting the OK from the jump master. She watched the plane slam belly-down and burst into flames about 50 yards from a farm-to-market road.

“We’re looking at the center of gravity,” investigator Jeffrey Kennedy said Monday.

“The wings need an angle of attack to continue to fly. There was a disruption of this angle.”

Kennedy said investigators also are hoping to pick up sounds from the amateur video of the plane’s spiraling crash. Sounds from the engine would help them verify possible causes of the crash.

Authorities have not released the names of the victims, but friends identified the pilot as Jason Thomas, 25, of Miami Springs, Fla., and the plane’s owner as Tom Manning, 44.


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