Dateline   |  November 08, 2013

'Miracle on the Sunset Dive' part 1

Two planes packed with skydivers collide mid-air over Superior, Wisconsin.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> it happened in the skies over a middle american landscape dotted with small towns, tall forests, and red barns, lapped by the waters of the continent's largest lake. above superior wisconsin and neighboring duluth, minnesota, where winter is closing in fast and where two small planes closed in even faster. [ screaming ]

>> they were terrifying seconds, frozen in time for those who live through them. the entire disaster was captured on video. the survivors themselves still can't believe it happened.

>> i'm looking at you and i know you've seen that several times but your jaw's hanging open.

>> yeah.

>> to amy olson and her fiance chad ebling, last friday was just another chance to share their passion for a sport that literally brought them love.

>> how did you two meet?

>> skydiving.

>> so skydiving played a major role in this relationship?

>> very big, yeah.

>> amy and chad's relationship quickly blossomed, like an open canopy, which is the word skydivers like to use instead of parachute. on saturday, amy and chad were joined by a gaggle of friends a ranging in age from 23 to 64.

>> the weather had been horrid for the last month, we kind of said that the weather looked like it might be jumpable.

>> the 11 friends gathered at sky dive superior. skydive bases like these are called drop zones and the circle of friends in this one had a common bond . the adrenaline rush skydiving brings. lennay is a single mother of two.

>> nobody takes on skydiving without thinking about the dangers, so take me through the thought process, especially since you're a single mom of kids 2 and 6.

>> it's the same amount of danger anybody would have have getting in your car and going to work.

>> do you worry before you head over to the drop zone on a weekend, do you stop and think -- ?

>> no, i'm really excited to get there.

>> -- that this is the day?

>> no, i'm really excited to get there.

>> on saturday, they all were. the nine skydivers and two pilots on two planes had already done up to nine jumps each but this was to be the best part of their day. a sunset dive, a chance to take in the sunset from 12,000 feet above the drop zone in superior. they each had done it many times before. a formation that looks like this when everything goes well.

>> two planes?

>> two planes side-by-side.

>> five or so jumpers in each plane.

>> yep, usually four in the front plane, five in the chase plane . and then the plan is to exit the plane simultaneously and come together and form a larger group skydive than you can do with one plane.

>> and does it usually go off like clockwork?

>> 90% of the skydives usually according to plan.

>> saturday's maneuver looked like it would go according to plan as well.

>> it was an amazing day. so beautiful, nice sky, no winds.

>> just 23 years old, matt was an experienced pilot with more than 400 hours of flight time. but he was a rookie skydiver with just two jumps under his belt. his flying skills and survival skills would be stretched to their outer limits and he's bearing the scratches and the cuts to prove it.

>> did you surprise yourself?

>> i did.

>> under those circumstances?

>> if you would have told me that i would have done what i did, i probably wouldn't have believed it.

>> dan chandler, an instructor at superior skydive, would also be part of that sunset formation. he was jumping from the chase plane , a cessna 185 sky wagon, riding with his girlfriend, trish roy, and four others as they all took off just before sunset .

>> i was so excited to just get to go jump with nine of my friends.

>> dan 's girlfriend trish was seated beside him in the plane recording video from a camera perched on her helmet.

>> my camera is recording dan getting out. he gets out, secondhand out --

>> and then it caught her eye. the first gut-wrenching instinct, she knew something had gone terribly wrong.

>> the white of the plane just kept getting closer and closer. i know we're supposed to be close, you know, for a tight formation because we want to get together but i think there kind of was a point where it was like, this is too close. too close. and that is when i screamed.