Crash survivor has change of heart

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — The woman who parachuted to safety as a plane spun out of control and crashed — killing six — was the least experienced skydiver on board. Now she says she plans to 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 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. On a videotape of the crash, the plane spins to the ground at a 45-degree angle with its nose down.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jeffrey Kennedy said on Sunday that the plane could have been overloaded, but on Monday he said the plane’s weight was within safe limits.
The NTSB will study the engine and other salvageable parts to try to determine if there was a mechanical failure.
Keith Burke jumped from the plane on Saturday and said the engine sounded fine. “It wasn’t sputtering,” said Burke, who has 1,827 jumps. “It was working fine.”
O’Connell was the only novice on board, Burke said. “All the others were experienced skydivers and had hundreds and even thousands of jumps,” he said.
O’Connell had been standing on a small, metal platform just outside the cabin, ready to jump, when the plane slowed and began to twirl downward.
Realizing the plane was in trouble, she jumped from 3,500 feet without getting the okay from the jumpmaster. She watched the plane slam belly down and burst into flames about 50 yards from a farm-to-market road.
The others would have still been sitting on the floor, still strapped in their seat belts, Burke said. The centrifugal force would have prevented them from standing up and getting to the door as the plane plummeted, he said.
Authorities did not release the names of the victims, but friends identified the pilot as Jason Thomas, 25, of Miami Springs, and the plane’s owner as Tom Manning, 44.