Fleet Week celebrations took a somber turn Sunday when a Navy SEAL had complications with his parachute during an exhibition jump over New York City. The unidentified sailor was pulled from the Hudson River almost immediately, but the fall proved fatal. The SEAL was part of the Navy’s official parachute team, the Leap Frogs.
It remains unclear how the accident happened. Four men jumped from two helicopters. The SEAL’s chute appeared to deploy, but it didn’t open. He was able to steer himself over the Hudson River, and cut himself free from the chute. He then fell into the river.
A Coastguard rescue team was on hand to pull him from the water. He was declared dead an hour later at a local hospital.
The team was supposed to have landed in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J. “New York City look to the skies at 12:00. We’ll be jumping into Liberty State Park today for Memorial Day Weekend,” the Leap Frog team tweeted earlier on Sunday. They included a photo from a previous jump.
“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,” Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, wrote in a statement.
Few of the onlookers saw what happened. Many were distracted by the smoke and parachutes of the other Leap Frogs. Someone captured video of the chute falling, and others reported hearing the splash in the river.
“I’m terribly saddened,” Nancy Malinowski told The Guardian. She lives in Cranford, New Jersey and had saw the empty chute land in Jersey City.
“I don’t think 90% of the people there were aware. Everybody was out there to support the military. It was devastating. We felt terrible. We figured it had to be a young man trying to do a little PR for the service. On Memorial Day weekend. It couldn’t have been worse.”