Finger pointing, but no one takes blame for mid-air collision - FOX 13 News

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Finger pointing, but no one takes blame for mid-air collision

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MULBERRY (FOX 13) -

Two days after a terrifying midair collision between a plane and skydiver in Polk County, many are asking the same question: who's to blame?

The collision was caught on camera by a photographer at Skydive Tampa Bay in Mulberry. The wing of a small plane flown by Sharon Trembley, 87, caught the parachute of skydiver Steve Frost, 49. They both crashed into the groundm but Trembley and Frost walked away.

Trembley has said he had every right to be there.

"If I hadn't of thought fast enough myself, he would have been dead, and you can see that by the pictures," he told FOX 13 in an exclusive interview Sunday.

But Frost told a different story.

"[The pilot] shouldn't have been so low at that point," he said from his home in Gainesville. "The air space is supposed to be controlled and protected to keep aircraft out of there while we're in the air, as parachutists."

The photographer who captured the incredible images on camera said skydivers operate under the same rule.

"The way I understand it is that aircraft, non-powered aircraft, have the right of way over powered aircraft," said Tim Telford.

But some pilots who witnessed the incident said the skydiver landed in the wrong spot.

Craig Muth, a veteran pilot who has also made 700 jumps, said he believes Federal Aviation Administration guidelines would give the right-of-way in this case to the pilot.

"If you're reading the letter of the law, you would have to say 'no' [the parachutist shouldn't have landed where he did]. But then it's not my position to judge what's right and wrong on the deal," Muth said.

According to the FAA Website, "it is the responsibility of everyone to watch for, and avoid, each other."

When asked whether there are strict guidelines governing right-of-way in the air, FAA spokesperson Kathleen Bergen said, "We have to investigate to determine how the operations should have occurred."

Experts said everyone needs to be watchful when skydivers and planes are in the air.

"I think it's everybody's responsibility to be vigilant and to make sure that you're watching out for one another," Muth said.

"Keep your head on a swivel," Telford said. "It's a big sky up there, but it gets awfully small when there are other people in your area, whether it is an airplane or another skydiver."

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