Local News

Skydivers land safely in Hoke after plane loses power

Posted May 6, 2012 1:55 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2012 11:43 p.m. EDT

— Four skydivers and a pilot were safe Monday after their plane lost power during a flight in Hoke County over the weekend.

A group of professional skydivers was headed to a parachute demonstration at the Cape Fear Harley Davidson open house Saturday when engine trouble forced them to make an emergency landing.

Minutes after takeoff, the single-engine Cessna 206 aircraft lost power at about 1,100 feet.

"We were in the process of unhooking our seat belts and the plane kind of sputtered a couple of times," said parachutist Mike Elliott. "The engine shut off."

That's when Harold Meyer said he glanced around at the rest of the parachute team before deciding to jump from the plane.

"We kind of took a glance at each other and said, 'Uh oh. What's going on?'" he said. "We really didn't have time to panic. When (the pilot) said, 'Get out,' you just get out.'"

The four men jumped out, landing safely in a field off Scull Road near U.S. Highway 401 outside Raeford.

Elliott said the jump was frightening, but that years of experience helped keep him calm.

"Anytime you zip out of an airplane and you're falling towards earth at 120 mph and you have pressure to open up (your parachute) at a certain altitude to save your life, there's danger involved," he said.

"When that happens, you have to react. There's no time to think about it – it becomes muscle memory. That's why we practice, practice, practice."

The pilot landed the plane in a field about a half-mile away.

State troopers later towed the plane back to the Raeford Aiport.

Elliott said most of the skydivers, including himself and Meyer, are former members of the Golden Knights, the Army parachuting team at Fort Bragg.