— -- Exclusive video has captured the dramatic and terrifying moments before a plane, carrying 17 skydivers and a pilot, crashed in California.
The pilot and skydivers had just taken off from Lodi Airport Thursday around 2 p.m., when the single-engine Cessna 208 in which they were traveling started experiencing engine trouble, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Because the plane was flying too low for the divers to jump out, the pilot tried to turn back, the FAA said. The plane clipped a truck as it approached the runway and crashed just off the airport, landing upside down in a vineyard.
"I heard a crash behind me and looked up, saw the plane cartwheeling, saw the tail above the grapevines," Kevin Conklin told ABC10. "Pretty wild."
Before the video went dark, the skydivers' helmet-mounted GoPro cameras captured their sheer terror and panic as the plane plummeted to the earth. As the plane flipped on its side, the skydivers found themselves piled on top of each other in the chaos.
"Next thing we know someone is freaking out in the back of the plane screaming," skydiver T.J. Landgren said. "I started to hear vines rip and it was a matter of seconds. ... I didn't think I was going home."
Witnesses and rescue workers credited the pilot for avoiding power lines as well as homes as the plane dropped from the sky. No one was seriously hurt on the plane.
"If it wasn't for the pilot, we wouldn't have made it," Landgren said. "Our lives were in his hands."
Lt. Dan Schmierer of the Woodbridge Rural Fire District told The Associated Press that he and rescuers found the pilot and skydivers standing around at the crash site.
"They were all happy to be walking away from the crash," he said.
The FAA said the pilot suffered minor injuries. No one on the ground was injured. Bill Dause, the owner of the Lodi Parachute Center, which runs the skydiving operation, said he was pleased that no one was hurt or killed.
"It could have been quite a tragedy," he told ABC10.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board said they were investigating the crash.