A New York City correction officer who would’ve celebrated his 25th birthday Thursday was killed in a skydiving accident that seriously injured his instructor in Calverton on Wednesday, police said.
Riverhead police said they were called to Skydive Long Island, which bills itself as “the premiere skydiving facility in the tri-state area,” at 4 p.m. after the tandem skydive ended tragically.
The correction officer, identified Thursday afternoon as Gary B. Messina of Medford, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The instructor, 28-year-old Sound Beach resident Christopher Scott, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital and was listed in critical condition.
“It’s an unfortunate tragedy that we lose one of our brother officers the day before his 25th birthday, a young man, a great officer with so much promise,” Norman Seabrook, president of the the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his family, and we will always be there for them.”
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the accident, a spokeswoman said.
Authorities did not say what caused the accident.
Raymond Maynard, who founded the popular skydive facility in 1986, was not available for comment. A person who picked up the phone at the facility said it was open despite the incident less than 24 hours earlier.
Tandem skydiving, which Messina took part in, “is the safest method of experiencing free fall, especially for beginners,” according to a recording on Skydive Long Island’s phone.
Jumpers experience a 60-second free-fall at speeds up to 120mph and parachute down for about four to six minutes.