The day after a skydiver and plane collided in midair in Polk County, both men opened up about the terrifying experience.
"It's just hard to say what happened when it did and why," said Sharon Trembley, who piloted the plane and spoke exclusively with FOX 13.
Trembley, 87, was in the cockpit and was approaching the runway at South Lakeland Airport in Mulberry on Saturday. At the same time, skydiver Steve Frost, 49, was also coming in for a landing.
"I pulled back on the stick to make the airplane go up and not hit him," Trembley said. "If I hadn't thought fast enough myself, he would have been dead and you can see that by the pictures."
The photographs, taken by a witness, show the collision as it happened. The plane clipped Frost's parachute, tossing him into the air. Both came crashing to the ground, the small aircraft hit nose-first.
Trembley's wife was nearby and rushed to the scene.
"My heart was beating. The adrenaline was going," Dorothy Trembley said. "Once I saw my husband and saw the airplane and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, how in the heck did you come out of it like this?'"
Frost, meanwhile, said he's made a little less than 100 jumps and told FOX 13 he was with a group of nine skydivers, including himself. He said his experience might have also helped him avoid serious injury.
"He flew straight toward me and I had to make some quick decisions," Frost said from his home in Gainesville. "[I tried] to make myself small by balling up, tried to speed up my flight of my parachute to get out of the way. But unfortunately my parachute got caught on the wing."
He said when the collision happened he remembers being afraid he was caught in the propeller, which he believes would have been deadly.
"I was extremely lucky," he said. "The potential was very high for that plane, for me to have come in contact with its prop or to have slammed into the ground and done some serious damage to myself."
Frost didn't break a single bone, walking away with several cuts and bruises.
"I saved his life," Trembley said. "From what I could see the wing, the right wing of the airplane probably would have hit him right below the neck."
Trembley, who said he has a valid pilot's license, also suffered several cuts, including one on his neck that needed stitches. He also bruised his vocal cords.
"I'm feeling fine except I just can't talk the way I should be talking," he said.
Trembley added, looking back on what happened and looking at the pictures, having two lives spared is a miracle.
"Sure, I'm thankful to be here," he said. "And how it wound up, I really don't know how I did get here after what happened."
The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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