Stanwood, WA Skydiving Plane Crash, Aug 1983


Stanwood, Wash. (AP) - Two dozen skydiving friends were making their final jump of the day when their World War II-era plane plunged into a howling, accelerating nosedive that ended in a fiery crash that killed 11 people.
Nine parachutists and the two pilots aboard the twin-engine Lockheed Lodestar were killed Sunday when the plane slammed into the embankment of State Route 530 between Silvana and Stanwood, about 45 miles north of Seattle.
Fifteen skydivers were able to exit the plane before it crashed, some clawing against gravity forces that tried to hurl them back inside the spiraling plane. No one on the ground was hurt.
Authorities sealed off the crash site Sunday night and were holding it for National Transportation Safety Board investigators expected late today.
Coroner's officers were at the scene, and Coroner Phyllis Lynch said dental charts would be used in attempts to identify the bodies, many strewn in pieces throughout the wreckage.
Survivors and eyewitnesses estimated the plane fell at least 12,000 feet and was approaching 400 mph at its nearly vertical impact.
Mike Metcalf, 34, a parachutist from Mercer Island, said the plane went into a "classic stall" just after he made his jump. Metcalf said he was one of the last six skydivers to get out of the plane.
Metcalf said he helped authorities identify the victims among the wreckage.
Snohomish County Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Sargent said there were 15 survivors, 10 missing and presumed dead, and one confirmed dead in the 6:30 p.m. PDT crash.
"Fifteen walked away and gave us their names," Sargent said.
In Arlington, Cascade Hospital Administrator Joe Hopkins said MARK LEVERENZ, 25, Bellevue, died of injuries suffered in the crash. Another man was taken to Providence Hospital in Everett with fractures, he said.
Identities of others killed were not immediately released.
Sargent said the plane had taken off from Arlington Airport, about eight miles east of the crash site.
The plane lay in twisted chunks of metal late Sunday, its engines resting on a hillside on the other side of the road where they were thrown. Body parts and pieces of clothing were scattered among the charred debris.
Metcalf said the jumpers were all friends who had been skydiving from the same plane since June. He said the group had planned to form a cluster of all 24 jumpers on the last jump.
Metcalf said that as he was leaving the plane, he felt it do something unusual. He said he looked up and backward while in his free-fall and saw the plane go nose up, then fall backwards and go into a spin, passing him as he fell toward the ground.
When the plane struck the ground, he said, "there was a big fireball with black, sooty smoke. It just slammed into the ground."
Rick McGuire, 29, was in a barn taking care of cows when the plane crashed about 300 feet away.
He said the sound of the aircraft's
engines drowned out the noise of the earth-shaking impact.
"It seems like I heard this plane in a nosedive forever, because we thought it was going to hit us. I assumed it was either going to hit the barn of the house," he said.
"My whole barnyard has got pieces of people."
Tom Classon, 32, Bellevue, a 12-year skydiving veteran, said he had to fight gravity and centrifugal forces to jump after the plane went into its stall. His leg was injured when it was struck by the tail of the tumbling aircraft, he said. He did not know how extensive his injury was.
Classon said some of the victims participated last month in national skydiving championships in Muskugee, Okla. He said one of the survivors who managed to escape the falling plane had been scheduled to be the 22nd jumper out of the aircraft.

Daily Sitka Sentinel Alaska 1983-08-22

Listing of the Casualties:
JOHN FRITZ ERIC, 32, pilot.