(CNN) — Although Shawn Kinmartin flies planes for a sky diving service, he hadn’t done any sky diving himself.
But on Saturday he didn’t have a choice. The 21-year-old’s Cessna had been seriously damaged when a sky diver jumped out and hit a key piece of the aircraft, Kinmartin explained on CNN’s “New Day” on Monday morning.
To have a shot at survival, he’d have to jump.
But before the heart-pumping moment, Kinmartin tried to steady his plane, cruising at 11,500 feet over eastern Missouri and southern Illinois.
A fellow pilot flew up in another plane to help assess the damage. The pilot checked out Kinmartin’s plane and signaled to him that the tail was badly bent.
Hopes of an emergency landing at an airport in Festus, Missouri, about 35 miles south of St. Louis, were dashed.
“We realized that I wouldn’t be able to perform the landing,” Kinmartin recalled.
Plus, he said, there was a car show at the airport and the runway was too short.
The decision to jump made, Kinmartin pointed the aircraft in the direction of Illinois farmland — the least populated area possible — and jumped, pulling the cord on the parachute pack he was already wearing.
Kinmartin watched his plane crash in Valmeyer, Illinois as he floated 1,500 feet into a soybean field. There were no injuries, according to CNN affiliate KSDK
“I was nervous, a little scared but at the same time excited,” he recalled on “New Day.”
Sure, it was his first sky dive ever, he said, but he had excellent training at Southern Illinois University.
Laughing, Kinmartin said he really likes sky diving and wants to do it again — next time on a tandem jump from a little higher up.
Kinmartin works for Fly Free Skydiving. His four customers Saturday afternoon all completed their jumps and landed safely at Festus Airport.
It is normal procedure for pilots of skydiving planes to also wear a parachute in case of such an emergency.