Skydiving event in memory of worker killed in propeller accident

Sarah Rhoads, 24, of Miamisburg, died after being critically injured when she accidentally walked into an operating airplane propeller this past June. Rhoads was an office manager for more than three years at Start Skydiving Dropzone at 1711 Runway Drive in Middletown.

“She loved the evening when it was over and the fireworks, that was her thing. She wanted to go out and enjoy it,” said John Hart, owner of Start Skydiving. “So to be stuck behind a desk, oh, she’d say works stinks; so it was great to name it after her.”

“Everybody expected to see her when they walked into the main office building, and it’s hard she’s not here,” said Emilee Langenkamp, a local skydiver who knew Rhoads.

“I’d walk in(to the office) in the morning a little sleep,y and she would have a nice smile for me,” said Josh Globac, a local skydiver. “Sarah was an awesome girl, we’ll never forget her. We all love Sarah. We all miss her.”

Rhoads, as she frequently did, walked out of the hangar to the plane on the tarmac to ask the pilot if he wanted any food. But for some reason, she walked into one of the propellers on the Nouvel Air airplane that was idle on the tarmac.

This year’s event began on Aug. 27 and ends on Sept. 1. Last Friday, there was a lantern launch in memory of Rhoads.

“About a 100 lanterns (were launched), and it was absolutely stunning to watch, to see people having fun thinking about her,” said Hart. “You never forget somebody that has a radiant smile that Sarah had.”

On Saturday night, Hart said they had a painting commissioned of Rhoads, “and we’re going to present it to her father, brother and sister; it’s going to be hanging there in the airport. We wanted to have something special that’s here all the time just to see Sarah smile with us.”

Hart predicts approximately 1,000 skydivers will participate in this year’s six-day event. He said skydivers will jump non-stop from three aircrafts this holiday weekend.

“You accelerate to 120 to 130 mph,” said Hart. “It’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else, and then that parachute opens up, it’s all of a sudden quiet, you get this breathtaking view. There’s nothing greater than the experience of skydiving.”

A five dollar donation, which goes to charity, is the admission fee. Money raised will be donated to the Sgt. James Robinson Memorial Scholarship fund. In addition to skydiving, there’s live music, food and a dunk tank, which Hart knows all too well.

“You got to pay to put somebody in the dunk tank cause everything’s going to charity. I was in it last night quite a few times. I don’t know if people like me or hate me,” Hart said with a laugh.

A huge fireworks show lit up the sky Saturday night around 10 p.m. Hart called it the biggest fireworks show in Butler County this holiday weekend.

“Jumping from the sky with pyrotechnic on our legs to kick it off, and the fireworks display is going to last a good 35 minutes,” said Hart.

Hart said Saturday afternoon that he expected thousands to be on hand for the fireworks show.

Longenkamp and Globac have each been skydiving for three years, and attended this event last year.

“I absolutely love it here, this is my second home, my home away from home,” said Globac. “The energy here is awesome.”

“Great time to be able to be with people you consider your second family and hang out. We get to have fun doing the sport during the day and then hang out and party at night,” said Longenkamp.

Staff Writer Rick McCrabb contributed to this report

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