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9 Skydivers, Pilot Die When Plane Crashes in Michigan

August 01, 1999| From Associated Press

COTTRELLVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A plane carrying nine members of a skydiving group that was holding its annual camp-out crashed shortly after takeoff Saturday, killing all the passengers and the pilot, authorities said.

The plane, a twin-engine Beech King Air 200, came down at 8:20 a.m. in a grassy field near Marine City Airport, about 40 miles north of Detroit, said State Police Sgt. Craig Nyeholt.

Jim Silliman, the National Transportation Safety Board investigator in charge, said the cause was not yet known but heat could have been a factor. High temperatures and humidity make it harder for planes to take off, NTSB spokesman George Black said.

Saturday was in the 80s and humid.

All the passengers were members of the Parahawks, a skydiving group that apparently had gathered at the airport for its three-day annual pig roast and camp-out. The event was to end Saturday.

A woman who answered the telephone at the Parahawks skydiving center at the airport refused to discuss the club or the crash.

"This is a very extended family," said James Relken, the local Red Cross chapter director, who was counseling families of the victims at the crash site. "The immediate family may not be here, but they're extended family to each other. That's very evident."

John Sers, who said he was the brother of one of the victims, said the Parahawks jumped weekly.

"This is where my brother loved to be. This is his passion. That's what he loved to do," said Sers, who declined to give his brother's name. "If you've got to die doing something, it ought to be something you have a passion for."

Raymond Wilson said his 22-year-old nephew, Roger Engle III, had made more than 100 jumps and was an expert at parachute-packing.

"He was out here all the time. He jumped a whole lot. We were hoping that he wasn't [on the plane], but his grandpa knew he was," Wilson said.

Each of the skydivers had made at least 200 jumps, and each had a D license, the highest level of certification from the U.S. Parachuting Assn., said Gary Cooper, regional director of the association.

The pilot, Paul Myks, also flew DC-9s for Spirit Airlines, Cooper said.

Macomb County Medical Examiner Werner Spitz said the plane, which crashed shortly after takeoff, broke into three parts, and the victims' bodies were strewn across a 50-yard area of wreckage.

Spitz said one body found in the cockpit was not wearing a parachute and is believed to be that of the pilot. The other nine victims were wearing parachutes, but they never had a chance to jump, Spitz said.

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