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REPORT: Fireworks to blame for 2015 plane crash in Gilbert

Posted: 9:27 PM, Jun 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-06 01:27:48-04
Plane crashes into Gilbert home, September 2016

GILBERT, AZ — It was a night a Gilbert neighborhood will never forget.

“The flames and smoke were everywhere,” said Andrew Bang.

“It’s one of those things you think only happens in a movie,” said Paul Lesniak.

But the real-life nightmare for Andrew Bang and Paul Lesniak happened just a few doors away. A plane carrying skydivers as part of Gilbert's Annual Constitution fair erupted in flames mid-flight.

Plummeting from the air, it nosedived into a home just a few miles from the Chandler Airport.

“You like thinking oh my gosh is everybody okay,” said another neighbor recalling watching the plane go down.

Cell phone video from that night captures the aircraft's final moments as it seems to fall from the sky.

But a new report from The National Transportation Safety Board sheds light on what happened in the air. “It shows it really shouldn’t have happened," said Lesniak.

According to the report, the plane's owner installed sparklers in a pyrotechnic box located on the left side of the airplane near the fuel tank. It was activated by the first skydiver, but exploded moments later ripping a hole in the plane.

The report goes on to say the FAA never approved the pyrotechnics to be installed. “Sounds very unfortunate, sounds like they didn’t really look into what they were doing,” said Bang.

Pyrotechnic skydiving is a niche market and only about 40 people in the country do it.

Somehow no one was killed in the accident including the two homeowners who were inside at the time of the crash.

“The homeowners really shouldn’t have had to go through that, and it’s been rough for them,” said Lesniak.

That couple has since rebuilt their house - but the battle in court to hold accountable those responsible for the accident is far from over.