Only parts of a wing and the nose wheel are identifiable in the wreckage.The aviation accident that claimed the lives of eight parachutists in Jämijärvi, Satakunta, on Sunday may have been caused by the accidental deployment of a parachute, estimates Veikko Korhonen, a founding member of the Parachuting Club of Tampere.

The casualties of the crash – two women and six men – were all members of the parachuting club, the police have revealed.

Jukka Harju, a reporter for Helsingin Sanomat, said on Sunday afternoon that the light aircraft was destroyed virtually beyond recognition in the crash, the only identifiable parts in the wreckage being parts of its yellow wing and nose wheel.

The aircraft, Harju said, crashed into a dry forest of pine trees of lichen, leaving several square metres of burnt ground in its wake.

Members of the media were denied access to the site of the accident on Monday as members of the victims' families visited the site.

Korhonen estimates that the accident was likely caused by the accidental deployment of a parachute while one of the parachutists was exiting the aircraft. The prop blast, he says, may have pulled the parachute canopy under the wing to the elevator, breaking the wing and sending the plane into an uncontrolled tailspin.

Thereby, only the pilot and the parachutists already outside the aircraft would have been able to survive the crash, Korhonen says.

It is extremely difficult to exit an aircraft in a tailspin due to strong gravitational forces. “One of the sky-divers may have survived with a rescue parachute and the other with the main parachute. I presume this is what happened, because all of the casualties were discovered in the wreckage,” explains Korhonen.

His theory is corroborated by the fact that in addition to the pilot two parachutists survived the accident.

Ismo Aaltonen, the chief air safety investigator at the Safety Investigation Authority, deems the scenario “plausible”. He nevertheless reminds that the accident investigation is only in its early stages and that at present only little is known about the details of the incident. 

“It's now crucial to investigate what happened high up in the air,” he stresses.

Although neither Aaltonen or the police are aware of any technical problems in the aircraft, the possibility of a technical failure cannot yet be ruled out. “We're looking into that as well. The aircraft has burnt very badly.”

Parachuting accidents, Aaltonen reminds, are very rare.

Sunday's crash is one of the worst aviation accidents in Finland.

Joonas Laitinen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva