Pilot Shawn Kinmartin spent his days flying people who elect to jump out of an airplane, but he'd never taken the plunge himself. That all changed on the day his plane went down.
Kinmartin, 21, flies for the Fly Free Skydiving in Festus, Missouri. His heart-pounding incident took place Saturday during a run near the state's border with Illinois. He was flying at about 11,500 feet when the run's last skydiver accidentally hit and damaged the plane’s elevation mechanism while jumping out, according to CNN.
The only one left on board, Kinmartin struggled for 10 minutes to regain control of his craft. As St. Louis station KTVI notes, an experienced pilot flew up alongside Kinmartin's damaged plane and radioed to tell him that the craft was unsalvageable. Kinmartin needed to jump if he wanted to live.
Keeping a cool head, the young pilot steered the plane in the direction of some open Illinois farmland before jumping out. He was already wearing a parachute, per a company policy.
“When I jumped out of the airplane, it was 2,000 feet, so I only had 1,500 feet to the ground,” Kinmartin told St. Louis-based outlet KSDK. “And when I jumped out of the airplane, it spiraled and crashed into the field. ... The wind carried me, and I landed in this soybean field.”
Upon inspecting the wreckage, he noted that he probably wouldn’t have survived the crash if he hadn't jumped.
Even though his first skydive was something of a close call, the pilot told CNN he’s looking forward to skydiving again in the near future.