SUPERIOR, Wis. — Mike Robinson was at 12,000 feet, just seconds away from his last jump of the day, when a second plane carrying other skydivers struck the aircraft he was in, sending them all tumbling toward the ground.
None of the nine skydivers or two pilots sustained serious injury when the two planes collided in midair Saturday evening in far northwest Wisconsin near Lake Superior. Authorities still didn’t know Sunday what caused the accident.
Robinson, an instructor and safety adviser for Skydive Superior, said he and three other skydivers were in a lead plane Saturday, and all four had climbed out onto the step to jump. The plane behind theirs had five skydivers on board, three ready to jump and two still inside the plane.
‘‘We were just a few seconds away from having a normal skydive when the trail plane came over the top of the lead aircraft and came down on top of it,’’ he said. ‘‘It turned into a big flash fireball and the wing separated.’’
‘‘The wing over our head was gone, so we just left,’’ he added.
The three skydivers who were on the step of the second plane got knocked off on impact, Robinson said, and the two inside were able to jump. The pilot of Robinson’s plane ejected himself, and the pilot of the second plane landed the aircraft safely at the airport where it had taken off from.
Robinson, 64, who lives north of Duluth, Minn., watched as the plane he’d been in spiraled downward and broke into pieces.
‘‘Looking around, we’re seeing the wing that came off. We’re seeing it’s on fire and there are just parts of the airplane floating in the air with us,’’ he said. ‘‘We were falling faster than those parts. . . . So the concern was we get away from the crash area.’’
Robinson said the skydivers had parachutes that allowed them to steer from the debris and toward the planned landing spot. They opened their parachutes between 3,000 and 5,000 feet and landed safely.
The pilot of his plane had an emergency parachute that cannot be steered, Robinson said, so he landed elsewhere. He had minor injuries and was taken to the hospital.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said the lead plane broke into three parts, with debris landing on the airport property and an adjacent retail area.