Pilot parachutes out of damaged plane before it crashes near Valmeyer

News-DemocratJune 14, 2014 

Shawn Kinmartin had no intention of jumping out of a perfectly good plane when he took off from a Festus, Mo., airport on Saturday.

But then his plane was damaged when the last of the four skydivers' parachute got caught in the tail of the plane.

Kinmartin, a 21-year-old Southern Illinois University Carbondale student, was behind the controls of a plane pitching upward.

"I knew I was in trouble then," Kinmartin said.

Kinmartin radioed his boss at Fly Free Skydiving in Festus and gave him an idea of what was happening.

He struggled to level the plane so it wouldn't stall and then realized that he wouldn't get the Cessna 182 back to the Festus airport.

He knew what he had to do. He put on a parachute and headed for a remote location.

He managed to stay behind the controls until the plane was about 1,500 feet above the ground. He jumped.

"That's about as low as you want to go out of a plane. That's the minimum," Kinmartin said.

The plane went into a cornfield at B and Bergen Road near Valmeyer in rural Monroe County.

Kinmartin, who has been a pilot for four years, floated safely to the ground. None of skydivers was injured and no one on the ground was hurt.

It was Kinmartin's first time skydiving.

Festus Airport Manager Steve Riggle said the plane sustained significant damage.

Riggle that by the time Kinmartin managed to get the plane to a remote area across the Mississippi River, he didn't have any choice but to jump.

"He did a very good job of making sure that no one was injured," Riggle said.

The plane went down between 2 and 2:30 p.m., Riggle said.

"It's never what you want to do, but sometimes you do what you have to," Riggle said.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

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