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Dayton Air Show resumes after moment of silence for two killed Saturday

Holly Samuels from NBC affiliate WDTN talks with MSNBC's Craig Melvin about a plane crash at an airshow in Dayton, Ohio that killed a "wing walker" and the pilot. Samuels explains what the act of "wing walking" is and the dangers involved.

 

In Dayton, Ohio, the show went on Sunday despite the crash a day before that left two performers dead.

Jane Wicker, 44, and her pilot, Charlie Schwenker, 64, were in the middle of performing a thrill-seeking trick Saturday afternoon that involved Wicker wing walking, which involves traversing the length of the aircraft during the flight.


In a video captured by one of Dayton’s local television stations just moments before the crash, the announcer tells the audience, “Keep an eye on Jane. Keep an eye on Charlie. Watch this! Jane Wicker, sitting on top of the world.”

The plane then abruptly dips, crashes and is immediately engulfed in flames as audience members scream in the background.

A bystander who was watching the Dayton air show captures the moment a stunt plane carrying a wing walker crashed into a field and erupted into flames in Ohio.

Wicker, a veteran wing walker, was reportedly on the wing of the plane when the accident occurred. All other performances were cancelled at the 39th annual Vectren Dayton Air Show after the accident.

There was a moment of silence at 11:55 a.m. Sunday in remembrance of Wicker and Schwenker before the schedule continued as planned, as is tradition when these types of tragedies occur.

This was not the first time someone was killed at the Dayton air show. In 2007, veteran stunt pilot Jim LeRoy was killed after his plane crashed into the runway and burst into flames while he was in the middle of a stunt.

"It's a close-knit community, but every performer would say they never wanted the show to stop if something happened to them," said Brenda Kerfoot, the general manager of the air show. "It's their honor to have the show continue."

Kerfoot said she spoke with all the performers yesterday and 100 percent of them wanted to continue on with the show in tribute to Jane and Charlie.

"It's the business they love and the passion they have for aviation," Kerfoot said.

National Transportation Safety Board lead investigator Jason Aguilera said at a news conference Sunday afternoon that he’s not taking anything off the table as to what caused the accident.

He said it will take at least six months for the NTSB to a release probable cause and a detailed report about what went wrong.

Aguilera said there were no radio communications signaling any kind of distressed calls from the pilot.

The NTSB is also reviewing various videos uploaded to YouTube.

“The uploading of the videos to YouTube gives us the opportunity to see different angles that we may not have gotten,” Aguilera said, adding that the NTSB is not just interested in the video content, but where the person who took it was standing.

On May 28, Wicker’s Facebook page “Jane Wicker Airshows” posted that she had an accident that resulted in lung and spleen injuries. Wicker later wrote that the injuries were not related to an aviation stunt, but that she would be out of commission for a couple weeks.

Wicker started her wing-walking career in 1990 when she answered an advertisement in the Washington Post for The Flying Circus. She related her first wing-walking experience to riding a roller coaster for the first time.

“It was the most incredible combination of adrenaline, excitement, apprehension and fear,” she said on her website. “It’s not a job for the faint of heart.”

Many of the questions on Wicker’s FAQ section on her website addressed safety issues like “what type of safety measures do you take?” and “do you wear a parachute?”

Unlike many wing walkers, Wicker was usually not attached to the aircraft. But she said she used the 3-to-1 rule where she had to have at least three points of contact on the aircraft at all times like two hands and one foot.

Wicker was the mother of two young boys and was engaged to one of her mechanics on her team Rock Skowbo. The two were supposed to get married on the wing of a plane, as Skowbo just learned to be a wing walker himself. 

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