Valmeyer Fire Department and Monroe County Sheriff’s Department personnel responded shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday to the report of a skydiving plane down in the area of B Road and Berger Road south of Valmeyer in rural Monroe County.
The pilot reported to emergency dispatch that he was not injured and there was no fire as a result of the crash.
Shawn Kinmartin, 21, was flying a single-engine Cessna 182 used for skydiving and had taken off from an airport across the Mississippi River in Festus, Mo. Kinmartin reported problems with the plane’s horizontal tail and guided the aircraft to a minimum safe jumping height before calmly parachuting safely to land in a Monroe County field. The unmanned plane then spiraled and crashed into the field.
All four skydivers aboard had already successfully jumped out of the plane and landed safely in Festus before the pilot reported a problem. The last of the skydivers apparently caused damage to the plane’s elevator, located on the horizontal tail, on the way out when his reserve chute got caught on the door as he was jumping. This triggered the “free bag” portion of the skydiver’s equipment to shoot out and catch on part of the tail, resulting in damage to the plane.
“It’s kind of a freaky thing that happened,” Festus Memorial Airport manager Steve Riggle said. “The kid did everything he could. He kept it together pretty well, given the situation.”
Kinmartin discussed the problem with airport officials, and the airport flew a plane alongside Kinmartin’s to assess the damage. That’s when the decision was made to veer the aircraft over to rural Monroe County and parachute out.
“A safe landing was pretty much out of the question at that point,” Riggle said.
The Federal Aviation Administration was called in to investigate the crash.