A member of the US Navy’s parachute team, the “Leap Frogs” consisting of Navy SEALs died on Sunday afternoon after his parachute failed to deploy adequately.
This tragedy struck just after noon on the Hudson River during a Fleet Week demonstration jump in front of thousands of spectators. The Navy has not yet identified the deceased sailor pending notification of next of kin.
The accident occurred a few minutes after noon near Liberty State Park, a large New Jersey park across from Manhattan where thousands of people a year catch ferries to the nearby national treasure.
The parachutist, whose identity was not immediately released, was a member of an elite Navy parachute team called the Leap Frogs, a Navy spokesman said. The cause of the parachute malfunction is under investigation.
“I’m terribly saddened,” said Nancy Malinowski, a Cranford, New Jersey, resident who was in Liberty State Park and knew something had gone wrong when she saw a parachute with nobody attached to it descend behind a building.
“I don’t think 90 percent of the people there were aware,” Malinowski said, describing a gathering in the park that included food trucks, a Navy band and lots of small children. “Everybody was out there to support the military.”
She said the parachutist was among four who drifted down from high in the sky from two helicopters. One of the parachutists descended with a large American flag.
In a release, the Navy said the parachutist was rescued immediately from the water by U.S. Coast Guard personnel who were standing by in vessels to support the aerial demonstration that featured the coordinated parachute jump. Local fire department personnel who were also on standby responded as well. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center at 1:10 p.m.
The Navy said the identity of the victim would be released after family notifications were completed.
“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,” said Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, commander of the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.
The “Leap Frogs” had promoted the jump and event with a Facebook post on Sunday morning telling New Yorkers “New York City look to the skies at 12:00. We’ll be jumping into Liberty State Park today for Memorial Day Weekend and in celebration of Navy Fleet Week.”
The parachute team is slated to perform at Sail Boston 2017 and at Navy Week in Pittsburgh. Other performances this summer include Minneapolis, Chicago and Salt Lake City, Utah. It isn’t yet known if this accident will curtail any scheduled appearances pending an investigation.
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Photo courtesy US Navy