JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Navy SEAL team member who fell to his death when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River was identified late Monday.
The Navy identified the victim in the Sunday incident as Remington Peters, 27.
“His accomplishments far outweigh his years. Anyone that has ever had the pleasure of knowing Remi could attest to his fierce loyalty to his friends, family, and his country,” Peters’ family said in a statement. “He was an angel on earth and role model to all. We couldn’t have been more proud of him. He lived life to the fullest and taught us to do the same.”
Meanwhile, as CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, a similar jump planned for the Mets game on Monday was canceled.
The Sunday accident occurred a few minutes after noon in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty near Liberty State Park in Jersey City.
“Liberty State Park, there is a guy in the water. That’s going to be by the Liberty Marina that’s going to be for a parachute, jumper down,” a dispatcher can be heard saying on an audio recording on Broadcastify.com.
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.
“As they were landing out of the corner of eye I saw a splash and I heard a very distinct thump,” said witness Bjoern Kils, who was on his boat about 100 feet away. “It’s terrible, very disturbing, very sad.”
“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.
Cell phone video captured a yellow parachute falling to a New Jersey parking lot.
“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.
Malinowski said she learned later in the day from a firefighter that the parachutist had died.
“It was devastating. We felt terrible,” she said. “We figured it had to be a young man trying to do a little P.R. for the service. On Memorial Day weekend. It couldn’t have been worse.”
“Considering I have a son in the military, somebody’s got to report that back to their family, and it’s horrible,” said spectator Juan Marin.
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.
“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.
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio led a moment of silence at the Intrepid Museum on behalf of the fallen SEAL.
“We are feeling sadness, we are feeling sympathy and solidarity with the family of the Navy SEAL we lost just yesterday,” de Blasio said.
In a Facebook post Sunday morning, the Leap Frogs promoted the jump with a photo of a team member descending in a parachute during an earlier jump, an American flag attached to him, saying: “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 accident came nearly two years after a U.S. Army skydiver, who had served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, died from injuries suffered in a midair collision with a Navy jumper during a stunt at the Chicago Air & Water Show that combined the Army Gold Knights and the Navy Leap Frogs parachute teams. The Aug. 16, 2015, accident claimed the life of 32-year-old Master Sgt. Corey Hood, of Cincinnati.
According to the Leap Frogs website, the team has performed every month this year, including at baseball home openers in Philadelphia and San Diego last month and at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado, in January. In June, it is scheduled to perform at Sail Boston 2017 and at Navy Week in Pittsburgh. Stops later this summer include Minneapolis, Chicago and Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Leap Frogs have been around for decades and performed their routine all across the country. Sunday’s display was billed as an education experience for children to learn about the Navy and as one of Fleet Week’s main attractions.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)