The major news in Umeå tonight actually comes from Örebro, a city in central Sweden, where a small plane crashed today carrying a pilot and eight parachutists. The reason why this news touches Umeå so hard is that almost exactly two years to the day — on July 14, 2019 — a small plane carrying a pilot and eight parachutists crashed in Umeå, on the islet of Storsandskär, about five kilometers southeast of the city, in the Ume River. All nine people on the Umeå plane died, and the city — along with SkyDiveUmeå, the local parachuting club based at Umeå Airport — mourned the deaths as authorities figured out what happened.
We do not yet know how many died in the Örebro crash — only that it was several of the occupants. The plane hit the ground near the runway of Örebro airport sometime in the late evening, just after 19:00. Images on SVT television showed a burning wreck. Firefighters extinguished it quickly, and one victim was taken to Örebro’s university hospital.
The plane was being rented by the Örebro Parachuting Club, which, at 23:00 on Thursday, had still not updated their website with mention of the accident. A spokesperson from the Swedish parachuting association said that the plane was rented, from Skåne and a DHC-2 Turbo Beaver, a single-engine propeller plane built in Canada, commonly used for skydiving because it climbs relatively quickly for a small plane. The model that crashed in Umeå was a GippsAero GA8Airvan, also a single-engine propeller plane. Following the Umeå crash, the Swedish Parachute Association temporarily stopped all skydiving flights with the GippsAero GA8.
The cause of the Örebro crash is still under investigation. The key question is whether it had any resemblance to the Umeå crash. In that case, investigators reported that the plane had been overloaded with parachuters and their gear, and was too heavy at the rear. A relatively inexperienced pilot, the reporters said, was flying at an unusually high altitude in order to avoid clouds. The tilt of the plane caused its center of gravity to shift backwards, until it lost speed and began to fall over Storsandskär. It rotated and broke up in mid-air, making it impossible for the parachutists to jump to safety successfully. Aviation authorities and the parachuting community throughout Sweden will now be looking very carefully at the way that small skydiving planes are being flown, loaded, and so forth. There may be a similar moratorium on the use of the DHC-2 Turbo Beaver for parachuting.
However, for the moment, Umeå is grappling with an event, occurring elsewhere in Sweden, which brings back traumatic memories from two years ago. Probably particularly hard hit will be the family and friends of those who died on Storsandskär, as well as the members of SkyDiveUmeå, who wrote after the 2019 accident, “Our hearts are bleeding and the tears cannot stop flowing.” They finally started jumping again in May, 2020. But it is probably fair to say that the 2019 accident had an emotional impact on many Umebor who didn’t have a direct connection to the victims or the club; the tragedy was a common topic of sad conversation among the general public in the days and weeks that followed. The events in Örebro may re-trigger those feelings. So, if you are one of the Umebor who may feel re-traumatized by the news today, you are not alone.