Marine City, MI Skydiving Plane Crashes, July 1999


Cottrellville Township, Mich. -- (AP) -- A plane carrying nine members of a skydiving group that was holding its annual campout 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 campout. The event reportedly was to end Saturday.
A woman who answered the telephone at the Parakawks 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 also 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 one could receive from the association, said Gary Cooper, regional director of the U.S. Parachuting Association.
Some made as many as 5,000 jumps, he said.
Lorraine and Richard Cassis flew in from Chicago with their 6-week-old son, Makoul, after receiving word that her brother, 24-year-old MATT MYERS, had died.
"We all worried," when MYERS, an auto mechanic, took up skydiving about two years ago, Cassis said. "He was very independent, a free spirit of a guy. He loved what he was doing. That was his favorite thing."
The pilot, PAUL MYKS, was a Spirit Airlines pilot who flew DC-9's for the airline, Cooper said.

Wisconsin State Journal Madison 1999-08-01