Storm blows Calverton skydivers off course, into tree

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Manorville firefighters lower two skydivers, including a first-timer, to safety Tuesday afternoon in Calverton.
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Manorville firefighters lower two skydivers, including a first-timer, to safety Tuesday afternoon in Calverton.

Two skydivers, including a first-time jumper, were rescued uninjured from a tree in Calverton Tuesday evening after a sudden storm blew them off track and crashed them into branches.

The two skydivers were part of 5 tandem teams that were jumping with Skydive Long Island in Calverton late Tuesday, said owner Ray Maynard.

The plane had already taken off and was in the calm air when Mr. Maynard noticed dust being blown around on the tarmac.

“With no warning whatsoever, it’s 50 mile-per-hour winds,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in 27 years.” Mr. Maynard said he rushed into the office to radio up to the plane to cancel the jump, but the skydivers had already left the plane.

The skydivers were blown around by the sudden squall and landed far off course, officials said. The two victims, a young woman and her more experienced tandem instructor, became entangled in a tree on Grumman Boulevard, just south of a string of power lines.

Manorville firefighters received the call about 6:30 p.m., officials said. They used a ladder truck to cut away branches to free the pair, who were left dangling dozens of feet in the air.

The duo was pulled into a ladder truck’s basket about 7 p.m., and though the young woman was smiling on the way down, she burst into tears once she reached the ground.

The woman was checked by Riverhead ambulance volunteers at the scene, but no one was injured in the incident.

Tom Gabrielsen, who dived with the two victims, said the ride down was smooth until they went into a cloud. Mr. Gabrielsen said his instructor, who had jumped thousands of times, told him this was the worst jump yet and that they were out of control.

“There was shaking in his voice,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. The two of them landed in a field just over a lake, unharmed.

“I give him credit,” Mr. Gabrielsen said, pointing to the sky. “God is great.”

Bill Jaeger, a local resident who was biking through the area, said he saw the divers lose control when the storm hit.

“They got caught in the wind,” he said. “It really picked up … They had no shot.”

Mr. Jaeger, who stood by as the two skydivers were brought to safety, said he was glad no one was hurt.

“That might’ve been her first jump,” he said of the younger skydiver, “Now it’ll be her last!”

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