CALVERTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — United States Parachute Association Spokeswoman Nancy Koreen says a miniature tornado or as skydivers call it, a dust devil, could have caused the accident in Calverton at Skydive Long Island that killed 25-year-old Gary Messina and left his instructor in critical condition, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.
“It happens when the temperatures begin to increase throughout the day and the ground warms up where it’s like the two different temperatures meet and it just kind of picks up and it just kind of flies with the wind for a little while,” she said.
Koreen said dust devils are rare on the East Coast and it is very difficult to spot one.
“The effects can be really mild to extremely violent,” she said.
Messina wanted to toast his birthday with an unforgettable adventure. He would have turned 26 on Thursday.
“He’s going to be missed,” his brother, Anthony Messina, told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang. “I love you, Gary. Happy birthday. I wish you were still here.”
Witnesses said the parachute did not open, killing Messina and critically injuring his instructor, 28-year-old Christopher Scott, during a tandem jump on Wednesday.
The FAA is investigating the accident, Hall reported.
The United States Parachute Association estimates there are more than 3 million jumps each year. The organization says last year, there were 24 skydiving fatalities.
Skydive Long Island was in the headlines in 2012 when a skydiving student, on her first tandem jump ever, was left dangling from a 70-foot tree after suddenly violent winds sent her and her instructor way off course.
The company says it offers the highest jumps on Long Island at 13,500 feet. It was back open for business on Thursday.
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