Leaping Through the clouds
40 years ago yesterday, 18 experienced recreational skydivers took off in a converted World War II B-25 flying at 20,000 feet, intending to land at Ortner Field
in Wakeman, Ohio.
Expecting to free fall and then pop their chutes at 3,000 feet, after passing through the clouds at 4,000 feet, they instead plunged into Lake Erie, five miles from shore. FAA rules then and now bar skydiving through clouds
, for obvious reasons.
The plane's pilot wasn't rated to fly the craft but he also received bad information about his location from an air traffic controller in Oberlin: the controller mistook a Cessna observing the jump from a couple of miles away for the B-25.
Two skydivers, one of whom had used his Styrofoam-lined helmet as a flotation device, were saved from the waters by a passing boater; 16 skydivers drowned.
Oddly, one skydiver had told people the night before that, given a choice, he would take drowning as the way to go
. He did not survive.
The tragedy remains the
worst recreational skydiving accident
in history. (Sub. required.)
posted by etaoin
on Aug 28, 2007 -