MONROE COUNTY, Ill. (KSDK) – A pilot who had spent four years manning a plane used for skydiving made his first jump on Saturday afternoon when he had to bail from his Cessna 182 as it spiraled out of control near Valmeyer.
Shawn Kinmartin, 21, is a pilot for Fly Free Skydiving in Festus. He was on his fourth skydiving run of the day at 11,500 feet when the trouble began.
"The two skydivers jumped out, they were the last two I had in my airplane," he said. "The last skydiver, on his way out, struck the elevator of the aircraft."
The elevator controls the plane's climb and descent. And for the next 10 minutes, Kinmartin fought to control the plane as he headed back to the Festus airport. But as it became more apparent that he was losing control, he made a judgement call: to bail and land in the farm fields instead.
He was already wearing a parachute -- a company policy -- but he had never used it before.
"When I jumped out of the airplane, it was at 2,000 feet -- so I only had 1,500 feet to the ground," he said. "And when I jumped out of the airplane, it spiraled and crashed into the field over there. The wing carried me and I landed on this soybean field over there."
Even though he's young, Kinmartin's colleagues give the SIU student a thumbs up for keeping his cool.
"I am a filght simulation student at SIU, and we practice different emergency situations," he said.
Kinmartin's just glad that his first jump isn't his last.
"After I jumped out of the plane, I knew it was going to land in a field and not actually hit a building or hurt anyone else, and my chute finally did deploy at that point," he said. "I finally had the rush of skydiving."
He wasn't hurt, but the experience was still jarring.
"The plane is completely destroyed," he said. "If I was inside the plane when it crashed the way it did I wouldn't be standing here."
Miraculously, no one was injured in the crash.