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Pilot jumps out of plane before crash

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MONROE COUNTY, IL (KPLR) - A small plane used for skydiving trips crashed into a cornfield near Valmeyer, Illinois Saturday afternoon after one of  its controls was damaged.  The pilot, who was the only one still on board,  parachuted from the Cessna 182 when it reached two thousand feet.  He landed safely in a nearby soybean field.

Pilot Shawn Kinmartin discovered he could not control the right elevator on the plane’s tail after the last skydiver struck it as he jumped from the plane.

“It actually made the right elevator completely useless,” Kinmartin said.  “I couldn’t pitch the aircraft.’’

At first, Kinmartin thought about returning to Festus Airport in Crystal City where he had taken off.  But advice from an experienced pilot who flew next to him to inspect the damage prompted him to head for farmland on the other side of the Mississippi River.

Festus Airport manager Steve Riggle, who is also a pilot, praised Kinmartin for his cool.

“At the point he wasn’t able to control the airplane there was a lot of risk.  Nobody likes to jump out if they don’t have to, but sometimes you have no choice if you can’t control the airplane,” Riggle explained.

The pilot described his feelings after his chute deployed, “The rush of skydiving  fly through me at that point.”

Kinmartin works for Fly Free Skydiving.  His four customers Saturday afternoon all completed their jumps and landed safely at Festus Airport.

It is normal procedure for pilots of skydiving planes to also wear a parachute in case of such an emergency.

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