No. 4 Story of the Year: Skydiver killed, instructor critically injured

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12/29/2014 8:00 AM |
The plane in the July 30 skydiving accident being taxied back to its hangar. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

The plane in the July 30 skydiving accident being taxied back to its hangar. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

A New York City corrections officer was killed a day before his birthday and another man was critically injured in a July 30 skydiving accident at Skydive Long Island in Calverton.

Gary Messina, 25, of Medford, who was killed, was a Patchogue-Medford High School graduate who had joined the city’s corrections department in 2012. He was the father of one son, his family said.

Mr. Messina’s father, Carl, a former Newsday pressman, told that newspaper his son had gone skydiving every year around his birthday for the past seven or eight years. “He was a man’s man,” he said of his son, “an inspiration to all who knew him.”

The instructor in the accident was identified by police as Christopher Scott, 28, of Sound Beach. He was airlifted from Calverton to Stony Brook University Medical Center. The accident was “unequivocally” caused by a mini-tornado known as a “dust devil,” according to Richard Winstock, national director of the United States Parachute Association. Mr. Winstock said he interviewed all of the witnesses and believes the mini-tornado collapsed the jumpers’ parachute, propelling them into a free-fall toward the ground.

Skydive Long Island, which opened in 1986, released a statement the day after the accident expressing sympathy for the victims’ families.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased and to our tandem instructor and his family,” it read.

This was the first fatality reported at the Calverton facility, though a jumper had died when the company operated out of East Moriches in 1989.

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