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Skydiver Jumps Moments Before Plane Crashes

May 26, 1997| From Associated Press

MIAMI — A skydiver who felt her plane spinning out of control managed to leap to safety Sunday, moments before the craft spiraled and crashed in a sweet potato field, killing the pilot and five other people.

An investigator said the plane, which was built for four people but carrying seven, could have been overloaded with too much weight.

The woman jumped to safety just as the plane went into its fatal spin, her parachute canopy still opening as the Cessna went down.

Rick Dryer, a pilot who reached the scene of the crash minutes later, said that the surviving skydiver told him she felt the plane shaking just as she was about to jump.

The 43-year-old woman, identified by WTVJ-TV as Carol O'Connell, was preparing to jump from an altitude of 3,500 feet when the pilot began having trouble, police said. When the plane made a 360-degree spin, she told police she decided to jump without waiting for instructions.

Jeffrey Kennedy, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said the agency will look into whether the plane was overloaded.

After reviewing the wreckage and a videotape of the crash, Kennedy said the plane may not have been going fast enough after making a turn.

"Aerodynamically, the airplane had gotten too slow and it lost lift with the wings--the wings did not have enough airflow over them," Kennedy said. "It's not a mechanical failure."

The Cessna 210 took off from Homestead General Airport and crashed about a mile away, its frame flattened and engulfed by flames in a field in a rural farming district between Miami and the Everglades.

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