Skydiver, pilot survive airborne collision

- Two men were hurt Saturday morning when a plane collided with the parachute of a skydiver in Mulberry.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office says the pilot, 87-year-old Sharon Trembley, a World War II veteran, was doing touch-and-goes in his private Cessna at the South Lakeland Airport; that's when a plane touches down briefly then takes off again.

During his third pass, the passenger side wing of his plane clipped a skydiver's parachute, cutting the chute and tossing the skydiver into the air about 75 feet above the ground.

"I have never seen anything like this and this is the last thing I thought I'd see today," said Tim Telford, who took pictures of the midair collision as it happened.

The skydiver, 49-year-old John Frost of Gainesville, was flung to the earth. The plane nose-dived into the ground.

"I thought they were both seriously hurt. We rushed over there," said Paul Fuller, one of Trembly's friends who was also watching from the ground. "He's a pretty good pilot. He's been flying all of his life, probably 60 some-odd years."

Both men were taken to the hospital. Neither was seriously injured.

Frost was treated and released. Trembley was being held for observation.

"You always hear the negatives about somebody died or somebody this, that or the other. Both these guys  walked away unscathed," Telford said. "A scratch here, a bruise there and I think both are just happy to be here today."

The National Traffic and Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the accident.

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