Dateline   |  November 08, 2013

'Miracle on the Sunset Dive' part 6

All nine skydivers are accounted for, but Blake Wedan, pilot of the chase plane, was still missing.

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

>>> they had to be the luckiest bunch of jumpers ever, survivors of a midair collision . talk about miracles, the pilot of the plane that had burst into flames had managed to extricate himself and jump to safety.

>> two planes at 12,000 feet, one on top of the other. are you amazed you survived, knowing that you were in that plane right there?

>> yes.

>> a miracle ?

>> yeah. i would safely say so.

>> now they were missing just one member of the gang. blake wedan, pilot of the chase plane . where was he?

>> so you knew everybody had survived except you didn't know what was going to happen with blake ?

>> uh-huh.

>> the pilot of your plane?

>> uh-huh.

>> but blake wedan apparently knows a thing or two about cool.

>> i don't want to try and say what i am and what i'm not as far as everyone panics in some sort of situation but i'm kind of proud of myself for keeping calm and collected in this situation. it didn't seem real, that it was really happening and i think a few of us have actually talked about that, had that same feeling. but i saw the 182 with only one wing at that point so i guess my first thought was if -- what does my airplane look like.

>> seconds after the collision, seconds after he got his five jumpers out of his plane, he ran through a safety check.

>> do i have both wings, do i have all of my control surfaces ? so i looked at all of them and they were all there. so i did my own control check and they all worked so i knew i could land it.

>> with his engine cut, his plane was idle and he began to glide his plane to the landing strip below.

>> how the hell can he fly that airplane.

>> it took some of the jumpers to realize what was happening.

>> what did it look like? what did it sound like? did you think it could be landed?

>> behind me i just heard it was an airplane but it wasn't what an airplane should sound like. it was just limping. and i look back and it was, thank god.

>> ironically surviving an explosive collision in the air, they were about to have another one on the ground.

>> emergency services had decided to start coming around to the runway to help us. so all of the jumpers got in the truck to try and clear the personnel off the runway as quickly as we could and we were all screaming and waving and yelling. the lead cop, he just veered right as hard as fast as he could into a ditch.

>> really, just to get out of the way of the plane coming in?

>> yep.

>> come on. you've got it.

>> the group was startled, then jubilant as blake brought his crippled plane in.

>> a beautiful landing. it was like something you'd see a normal plane land and as soon as he touched down it was --

>> we cheered.

>> incredible.

>> we cheered.

>> and then these two took a moment.

>> we finally got a second after the dust cleared to sort of get it back together and get a hug.

>> there's no doubt in my mind that there was a guardian angel over every single one of us. one of my fears in the plane when the explosion happened was if -- if this plane starts spinning, the force of the spin is going to pin us and we're not going to be able to get out. we might not be able to move or open the door . i mean, i got out relatively easily. so that was the biggest fear, was get out of the plane.

>> battalion chief johnson had a moment of his own.

>> they said, yes, everybody is accounted for. all of a sudden the harps are playing and the stars are twinkling brighter.

>> the national safety board is investigating what caused the midair collision .

>> from what you can tell, do you have any idea what went wrong?

>> no.

>> amazing as it sounds, each and every one of them quickly knew this experience wouldn't stop them from jumping again.

>> you know, you've been asked this already but anybody who goes through what you've been through would reconsider, would reassess and say, i've had a miracle here.

>> uh-huh.

>> why tempt fate.

>> it's not tempting fate. it's living.

>> i guess it's also something that we found, i guess, maybe a profound part of ourselves and involved in this sport.

>> less than a week later, they are all still struggling to understand what happened up there in their playground in the sky.

>> i have no idea how to explain it. it's a miracle after a miracle after a miracle after a miracle . you're excited for one miracle . we got 11 plus . each of us had our own little miracle . it's a miracle that it didn't turn out worse.

>> it's a miracle that one of the propellers didn't cut anybody in half.

>> it's a miracle that all of our parachutes opened up and we were all under them able to walk away. it was a miracle that the pilot landed the plane with the bent propeller.

>> and yet to a person, everyone in this group says they'll get back in a plane and go up and skydive again and i wonder, don't you ever worry you're out of miracles?

>> you know, you can worry about that but then you're not going to be able to live your life . you're going to be trapped in just this little box of worry and fear and you won't be able to step outside of it.

>> and stepping outside out into the big blue with nothing but a chute and a wild rush of adrenaline makes these lives worth living, they say, even after the terror of a sunset dive that went terribly wrong.