Sunday, January 07, 2018

Skydive City: Fatal accident occurred January 07, 2018 in Zephyrhills, Pasco County, Florida

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — Zephyrhills police have identified the skydiver that died Sunday afternoon following a hard landing as Joshua Butzke, 26, from Connecticut.

Butzke is the latest fatality at Skydive City following the November 13 death of Kurt A. Tracy, 36. Tracy died after his parachute and backup failed to open, according to General Manager of the facility TK Hayes.

"They hit the ground at full speed and were killed on impact, instantly," said General Manager TK Hayes.

Hayes says neither the main parachute or reserve were pulled.

“It rattles people, that is a bad statistical run for us we are not normally like that,” Hayes said. “It sure wakes people up around the drop zone. The sport is serious and small problems can turn into big ones quickly.”

Butzke was relatively new to skydiving. Experienced jumpers will have as many as 5,000 to 10,000 jumps under their belt. Hayes said Butzke had 85 recorded jumps.  He made 13 of those at Skydive City, according to Hayes.

“We provide the airplane rides for you and you can go have some fun but having said that as well when you do stupid stuff we have Safety people we go talk to you and will ground you if you are really being reckless,” Hayes said.

They don’t have an exact cause for the hard landing that claimed Butzke’s life but believe he had some sort of equipment failure.

”He deployed his parachute at a normal altitude, he was flying straight. Somewhere, around we guess, 800 to a thousand feet the parachute began a very very steep spiral all the way to the ground.  He was he dealing with a problem with the left toggle,” Hayes said. “That parachute was in a very severe left diving turn when he hit the ground. And we know that he entered into that for four or five revolutions which doesn’t automatically happen on its own. We are pretty sure he was dealing with some kind of problem.”

Hayes said Butzke hit the ground at a high rate of speed. He was immediately rushed to an area hospital where he died a short time later.

Zephyrhills police said the accident is still under investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration will send someone out to Skydive City to make sure there were no issues with his plane.  

The United States Parachute Association said most of the deaths each year are preventable.  

Out of nearly 4 million jumps in 2017 there were 24 deaths.  In 2016, there were also 24 deaths.  

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Joshua Butzke

ZEPHYRHILLS — Joshua Butzke never shied away from adventure — from skydiving to scuba diving, even cage diving with sharks.

He loved "traveling and experiencing things," said his sister, Eva Wein on Monday.

On Sunday, the 25-year-old, who was visiting from Connecticut, died from injuries he sustained in a skydiving accident at Skydive City, according to the Zephyrhills Police Department. The parachuting center is at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.

Butzke jumped from the plane at 13,500 feet and opened his parachute at about 3,500 feet, according to David "T.K." Hayes, general manager of Skydive City. Somewhere between 1,000 feet and 800 feet above the ground, the open parachute began spiraling, which caused a hard landing and "devastating" injuries, Hayes said.

Butzke was on his second day skydiving with the center, Hayes said, and had jumped 13 times over the two days. Butzke was licensed to skydive in New York in 2017, according to Hayes.

He was on his 85th jump ever, and was jumping with one other person when his parachute spun out of control, Hayes said.

Butzke’s sister was with family members on Long Island Monday. She called her brother "just a truly wonderful person."

"He loved his family with everything he had," Wein said. "He lived for his nephews. He lived for his family. Nothing in the world was more important to him."

Wein said she texted Butzke two hours before his last jump.

He was a financial planner for three years in Norwalk, Connecticut, according to Wein. He was born and raised in Port Jefferson Station, New York.

Officers responded about 4:20 p.m. Sunday to a call about a parachutist down at the business at 4241 Sky Dive Lane.

Butzke was taken to East Pasco Medical Center, officers said, where he was pronounced dead about 5:10 p.m. from injuries related to the fall.

It is unclear what caused Butzke’s parachute to spin, Hayes said, but the Federal Aviation Administration will look for clues during its investigation. He expects officials to arrive Wednesday.

"I don’t know that we’re ever going to be able to come to an exact conclusion," Hayes said Monday. Skydive City closed Sunday after the incident, but skydivers were back out on Monday.

In early November, an experienced, 36-year-old parachutist died at Skydive City.

The FAA will investigate the latest incident along with the Zephyrhills Police Department, authorities said. 

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