Dateline | November 08, 2013
>>> last saturday evening, firefighters at the city of superior fire department were kicking back looking forward to a good bowl of soup for dinner. but then they heard something strange. battalion chief vern johnson.
>> i heard an airplane noise outside the window. it's not characteristic. it sounded low.
>> you could see a ball of fire here.
>> a ball of fire?
>> within minutes, the county's emergency call center was fielding a steady stream of calls.
>> are you still there?
>> is it in flames?
>> the chief ordered his three engines out. [ sirens ]
>> and headed to the nearby airport looking for a crash site.
>> you look for a black plume of smoke and something that's identifiable from a distance and we approach the airport and we really couldn't see anything.
>> except for a few skydivers.
>> when i pulled out, i could see parachuters in the sky.
>> on a normal evening, that's not an unusual site out here but this was hardly a normal evening.
>> we have fires and debris and crash sites. i was looking for fire, really.
>> looking for fire, not knowing that all around him miracles were happening. survivors were dropping midair from the sky, having dodged debris from a burning plane and then landing. as incredible as it seems, right in the drop zone . chad ebling, amy olson's fiancee, was the first down.
>> first of all, it was amazing to me, he landed exactly where you were supposed to land. you know, i think under those circumstances, i would have been happy landing ten miles away but you landed right there at the drop zone . what happened when you hit the ground?
>> as soon as i landed, i took my gear off as quickly as i could. one of the students was there watching.
>> he saw it all from the ground.
>> and he and i immediately looked up and counted all of the parachutes just to make sure we knew where everybody was and everybody was okay.
>> as soon as lanaya landed, she started counting her friends as well.
>> and one by one, their feet are hitting the ground. can you describe that moment?
>> it sends chills all over your body. that huge sigh of relief. i aimed my parachute, i started landing so i could land towards my girlfriend. i took my parachute off right away and just ran over to her. i've never been so happy in my life to see her standing there and i look over a little bit further down the runway and see the rest of the jumpers walking around, talking. and i never have been so happy in my life to see these -- these people, these friends, my family.
>> within minutes, all nine jumpers were accounted for and all over the drop zone they were gathering each other up, shocked and somber.
>> i came in and landed second next to chad, gave him a big hug, was relieved that he was okay, standing up.
>> hardly daring to believe they were safe.
>> it's like, we all just survived that? it doesn't seem like -- you know, is this real? did this really just happen? it definitely still does not seem real.
>> but while the others were veteran jumpers, matt fandler, the pilot of the plane that burst into flames was a newbie.
>> how hard did you hit?
>> i would say reasonably hard. it was hard to tell because i hadn't done anything like that before but it was definitely harder than the other two jumps that i took.
>> and you land, you roll over , what do you do? do you set up, count your limbs.
>> i laid on the ground to get the air out of the parachute. i was worried about the parachute catching air and dragging me.
>> how long did that take?
>> about five seconds.
>> and once you got the air out of the parachute were you able to get it off you?
>> uh-huh. yeah.
>> how soon after that did you see some of the people on your team?
>> it was probably about 30 seconds after. i saw johnny and i saw trish like on the runway.
>> this selfie tells it all, his face cut by shards of glass from the windshield. [ crying ]
>> not far from the runway, amy olson was safe but she couldn't stop crying.
>> i can hear how emotional you were at the moment.
>> good to be down. we have a saying, um, you'd rather be on the ground wishing i was in the air than in the air wishing i was on the ground and that it felt really good to be on the ground. i hadn't seen that one yet.
>> maybe not your best look ever. but you know what, you're on the ground.
>> at that point, amy , did you realize everybody had survived?
>> still pretty uncertain about blake at that point.
>> blake wedan, pilot of the chase plane , was still missing. dan chandler remembers looking up after he landed and feeling horror-struck.
>> you look in the air and you see that burning wing spiralling down slowly to the ground. you thought that was the plane?
>> i thought that was blake . and that's the plane i was in. and blake -- it's weird to say, but the pilot of that plane and i was like, god, we lost everything.