angled chute is cited in crash
By Kevin McDermott
Post-Dispatch Springfield Bureau
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - A Springfield man's parachute may have opened early and tangled around the tail of a single-engine plane as he was preparing to jump, killing him and sending the plane into a nose dive that caused the other five men aboard to bail out.
That is emerging as the most likely scenario for Sunday's fatal sky-diving outing near Taylorville, Ill., southeast of Springfield, state and federal officials said Monday.
Dead is William J. Jensen, 38, of Springfield, a computer consultant and father of two who took up sky diving about five years ago. Four other parachute enthusiasts and the plane's pilot all parachuted safely away from the plane before it crashed. The pilot sustained minor injuries.
The 1967 Cessna 206 crashed into a bean field about 2:40 p.m. Sunday, after taking off from Taylorville's municipal airport carrying the pilot and five members of the Mid-America Sport Parachute Club. Witnesses said the plane appeared to stall and began to roll slowly and descend as the five parachutists escaped.
Jensen's body was found with the plane at the crash site, officials said. No one on the ground was injured.
Based on eyewitness reports, officials initially believed the plane had had unrelated mechanical problems that caused it to crash and that Jensen had failed to get out in time. But by Monday, officials said it appeared that Jensen's chute had accidentally deployed while he was still on the plane, possibly killing him instantly, and then causing the crash.
The crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"It appears . . . the chute became entangled with the tail, causing the plain to spiral," said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory. She said the plane - which was found on its back but mostly intact at the crash site - didn't show signs of mechanical problems.
Christian County Chief Deputy Coroner Rick Sutton said Monday his office's investigation indicated Jensen was making his way to the plane's diving platform when his parachute deployed prematurely. Sutton said the main parachute became tangled around the tail of the plane, jamming the rudder and sending the plane into a spin.
The other skydivers and the pilot thought Jensen had cut himself loose from the tangled main parachute and jumped to safety, Sutton said. Meanwhile, Jensen's reserve parachute became caught on the plane's wing, Sutton said.
Jensen's neck slammed into the wing, likely killing him instantly, Sutton said. He said he did not know whether Jensen's main parachute was cut loose from the tail.
Jensen competed in bicycle races around the Midwest until he took up sky diving about five years ago, said Gary Doering, a longtime friend. "He just took everything to its fullest. He was a real go-getter," said Doering.
Jensen, a self-employed computer consultant who did work with the state, was married and has a young son and daughter, officials said.
The pilot, Dean Baxter of Jacksonville, suffered minor injuries when he was jarred during his landing, possibly because he was using an older-model parachute, officials said. The other jumpers all were uninjured. They were identified as Matt Flannell of Taylorville, Jaco Duvenhage of Farmersville and Matt and Barnett Glisson of Springfield.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
farewell brother. have fun hook turning through the clouds.