A Navy parachutist died after recently partaking in an aerial demonstration for Fleet Week this past Sunday. During the demonstration, his parachute failed to open properly and he plunged into the Hudson River in front of hundreds of people, who were observing from Liberty State Park.
The man who died, whose identity was not immediately divulged, was a member of the Leap Frogs, which is the US Navy parachute team that travels throughout the nation giving demonstrations.
The Navy claims that the man was officially pronounced dead less than an hour after the Coast Guard and the Jersey City Fire Department’s marine unit got him out of the water and transported him to a hospital.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to his family, and I ask for all of your prayers for the Navy SEAL community, who lost a true patriot today,” declared Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, who is a commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.
The source of the glitch is being investigated, according to Admiral Scorby.
The Leap Frogs were the major attraction of a Fleet Week event which was described as an educational celebration in which the public, particularly families with kids, could learn more about the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Marine Corps. The public was intended to inform itself through exploring military vehicles and partaking in activities.
With the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline as a background, the troop of parachutists descended from a helicopter around midday. The audience described the show as being one commonly done by the Leap Frogs—a demonstration consisting of parachutists joining hands and twisting and turning as they glide through the sky. With their blue and yellow parachutes emblazoned “NAVY,” a single parachutist held a huge American flag which whipped in the air.
However, one parachutist separated himself from the group and escaped from the sight of the general audience. It was soon discovered that his parachute had failed to open fully and thus he fluttered to the floor in a close by parking lot.
Maria Ashley, 49, was among the observers of the spectacle and asserted that few people standing near her were able to comprehend that anything had gone wrong as multiple tall glass towers on the New Jersey side of the river obstructed a view of the parachutist as he fell into the water.
Regardless of such, Ashley affirms that she had thought something had gone awry. “I knew it wasn’t right because the parachute should be in an arch,” she stated.
The Leap Frogs consisted of active-duty members of the Navy SEALs, members of other Naval Special Warfare units and other personnel who volunteer, based on the information provided by the SEALs website. The group has notoriously been engaging in demonstrations for decades, and fatal accidents have been extremely uncommon.
In 2015, the Leap Frogs joined the Golden Knights, who are the Army’s parachute team, in a demonstration that takes place at the Chicago Air & Water Show. Master Sargent Corey Hood died after colliding with a member of the Leap Frogs during a stunt, claim Army officials. Following the tragic incident, the Army suspended demonstrations for roughly seven weeks.
Demonstrations can be dangerous, admits Captain Norman H. Olson, who is recognized as one of the founders of the Leap Frogs. Captain Olson, who is now retired, expressed his sorrow on Sunday regarding the mortal mishap.
“There are innate challenges with parachutes,” he admitted.
Captain Olson, 86, executed his 4,000th parachute jump on his 80th birthday. He explains that he founded the group in the 1960s with the intention to both entertain and educate the public.
“It really kept on going,” he stated. “They do a great job. It’s one of the finest demonstration teams in the world. It started with five of us.”
According to the Leap Frogs website, the group has performed various times this year so far, beginning with the Winter X Games in Aspen, CO, in January. The team is set to perform next month at Sail Boston and during Navy Week in Philadelphia.
This past Sunday, multiple people at Liberty State Park originally thought the fall had been part of the demonstration, “to show how they rescue someone from the water,” informed Russell Worrell, 73, who is a retired post office worker and an Army veteran.
Worrell recounts that his eyes had been focused on the sky as he took pictures but that he then heard the commotion of the crowd around him.
Shortly after 4 in the afternoon, people began finding out that the parachutist had died.
Nancy Malinowski, a citizen of Cranford, N.J., sat quietly crying while she thought of what she had witnessed.
The man’s parachute descended into a location just north of the pier, where a D.J. was playing pop music for the event.
“It’s hard to believe it really happened and everyone is sitting here having a good time and the music is still playing,” Malinowski stated.
There were bouncy castles, empanada trucks and even a blowup figure of a large Marine in fatigues watching over it all. Military vehicles were stationed on a lawn for kids to explore, and once in a while, gray military helicopters took off from a nearby pad and buzzed over the scene.
“It’s so unnecessary, just to entertain people, for someone to have died,” Malinowski opines. “People came out to support the military, and he dies on Memorial Day weekend.”
Featured Image via Wikimedia.