Monday, April 08, 2019

Skydive Cross Keys: Fatal accident occurred April 07, 2019 near Cross Keys Airport (17N), Williamstown, Monroe Township, New Jersey

Paul Haaf Jr. 

Paul Haaf Jr. was 40 when he tried skydiving for the first time, said his mother, Dianne.

It was a tandem jump with an instructor paid for by his then-wife as a birthday present. “He just loved the freedom of being in the sky,” Dianne Haaf said Monday.

Fourteen years and more than 1,200 jumps later, the 54-year-old Monroe Township resident was making another jump Sunday afternoon when something went wrong and he fell to his death in a residential neighborhood in Gloucester County

To the horror of witnesses, Haaf hit the ground about 5:15 p.m. on Brookdale Boulevard in the Williamstown section of Monroe Township, officials said.

He had jumped from a plane that took off from the nearby Cross Keys Airport in Williamstown. The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating Haaf’s death, which was ruled an accident by Gerald Feigin, the county medical examiner.

It was at least the 10th fatality since 2002 for skydivers jumping from planes that took off from Cross Keys Airport, including one involving two skydivers who collided in the air, records show.

On Sunday, residents in the quiet neighborhood about two miles from the airport said they saw a shredded parachute falling across a backyard and heard a loud noise when the skydiver landed on the ground in a median area. His main parachute was not attached to him, said Sharon Spera, who lives a block away.

“He just came straight down,” said Spera, 71, a retired school secretary.

Haaf’s Facebook page showed his love for skydiving. There was an outpouring of messages at the news of his death. “You will be missed greatly my brother Paul Haaf. Blue skies,” one person wrote.

Dianne Haaf said her son was “very safety conscious” and packed his own chutes.

The last time she saw him jump was several years ago, and she never felt worried, she added. “He’d just land on his feet and just walk away from it,” she said.

Haaf grew up with a brother in the house where his parents live in the Timber Lakes section of Monroe Township. He had one adult daughter and most recently worked at an Acme Market, his mother said.

He had physical difficulties, which his mother did not specify, and recent surgeries, but that did not deter him from his love of skydiving. “It was something that captured his imagination,” she said.

The accident investigation will likely center on the parachute. The FAA said it would conduct a review of the parachute, standard procedure when there is a fatality.

Tom Gilbert, a spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office, said Monday Haaf apparently had difficulty deploying his main parachute and disconnected it. Haaf activated his auxiliary parachute but was falling too rapidly for it to let him land safely.

On Tuesday morning, Gilbert said the main parachute was found Monday afternoon after a State Police helicopter spotted it in a wooded area near the Atlantic City Expressway, about a mile from where Haaf landed.

“We’re still trying to explore the unfortunate chain of events. It does look like he made the best effort he could,” Gilbert said.

In a statement, the company that operates the skydiving business, Skydive Cross Keys, said, “The jumper was very experienced, having over 1,000 jumps to his credit. The skydiver’s parachute was deployed upon exiting the airplane.”

There was little activity Monday at the airport, where two small planes sat near the runway. No one answered at the office. John Eddowes, owner of Skydive Cross Keys, did not respond to a request for comment.

About 15 miles south of Philadelphia, the airport is privately owned for public use. It is considered a mecca for skydiving enthusiasts, although it has also gained attention over the years for accidents and fatalities. Most of the victims were described as experienced skydivers and included an immigrant from Ukraine who lived in Brooklyn, a 62-year-old Bala Cynwyd man, and a mayor from Delaware County.

In 2014, Eddowes’ skydiving company, then known as Freefall Adventures, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but said it would continue operating. Earlier that year, Eddowes and his wife, Agnes, the company’s owners, also filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows individuals to restructure debt payments.

Gilbert, of the Prosecutor’s Office, said Haaf was among about a half-dozen skydivers on the plane that took off from Cross Keys, and that they jumped in two groups. Neighbors said they saw some of those who landed safely in an area nearby walk to the scene where Haaf was found.

According to Nancy Koreen, a spokesperson for the U.S. Parachute Association, in only about 1 in 1,000 cases does the main parachute not deploy properly. She said she could recall only a single incident in the last 30 years where a parachutist died because his parachute didn’t deploy.

Experienced jumpers typically own their equipment, Koreen said. Other parachutists say that even if people packs their own gear, the skydiving company checks it, making sure it was done correctly.

Spera and her husband, Angelo, who live at a busy intersection a block from the scene, were preparing Sunday dinner for their extended family when their daughter, Amy Lancetta, began screaming from the patio.

Lancetta, 40, of Hammonton, N.J., a speech therapist, watched in horror as Haaf fell to the ground, her parents said. She was still coping with the shock on Monday and was so distressed that she left work early.

“She was hysterical. She started screaming, ‘Call 911, a skydiver just fell,’” said Angelo Spera, 69, a retired elementary-school teacher.

Angelo Spera said the family rushed out of the house. Despite the warm weather, there were few people outside. They could see Haaf’s body on the ground surrounded by debris, including his shattered helmet and body camera.

A Cooper University Hospital trauma nurse, who drove by the scene minutes after the incident, rushed to Haaf’s aid, the couple said.

“She had tears in her eyes,” Angelo Spera said.

Skydiving Fatalities Near Cross Keys Airport

May 26, 2002: Seth Karp, 28, a nationally ranked skydiver, dies from injuries. John Eddowes, owner of Freefall Adventures Skydiving School, says Karp tried to maneuver into a turn too close to the ground. Monroe Township police say Karp's parachute didn't open correctly.

Sept. 2, 2004: Craig Kuske, 29, an experienced jumper who had been skydiving for 10 years, dies after his parachute failed to open. Gloucester County Medical Examiner's Office later determines that Kuske's blood-alcohol level was 0.16 percent, more than twice the legal limit for driving.

July 4, 2005: Sara Loshe and Ron Samac, two veteran skydivers, die after their parachutes become entangled 150 feet above the ground.

Sept. 10, 2006: Paul Joseph 3d, a skydiving instructor, and student Reed Michael Loeschke die in a tandem jump after their main parachute malfunctions.

March 25, 2011: Carter Scott Shields, 45, the mayor of Rutledge in Delaware County, dies after plummeting into woods after his main parachute fails to open. An emergency chute activated automatically but failed to open completely.

Nov. 21, 2012: Donald Lawrence Morozin, 62, a certified skydiver with more than 3,500 jumps, falls to his death after not attempting to open his parachute. The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office says Morozin was "known to have hypertension and other medical issues that could cause him to pass out."

April 20, 2014: Arkady Shenker, 49, a skydiver who had logged 350 jumps, dies on his third jump of the day, after becoming tangled in his parachute and failing to deploy a second parachute.

April 7, 2019: Paul Haaf Jr., 54, a skydiver with more than 1,200 jumps, falls to his death in a residential neighborhood in Monroe Township. Skydive Cross Keys says Haaf's parachute was deployed upon exiting the airplane.

According to the U.S. Parachute Association, about 21 people have died in skydiving accidents annually over the last nine years in the United States. In the 1970s, about 42 fatalities were recorded every year.

The association said it recorded 13 fatal skydiving accidents nationwide last year out of roughly 3.3 million jumps, for a ratio of one fatality per 253,669 jumps.

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MONROE TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (CBS) – A man died in a skydiving accident in Williamstown, New Jersey, on Sunday night, officials say. Investigators say 54-year-old Paul Haaf, of Monroe Township, was taking part in a group jump with Skydive Cross Keys when, shortly into the jump, he began having trouble with his parachute. Eyewitnesses say they saw Haaf “falling through the sky.”

Haaf’s brother told Eyewitness News he was briefed on the accident. He says it was a higher than usual jump and that Haaf was the second one out of the plane. His chute was tangled and as he tried to fix it, he went into a spin.

Authorities say the primary chute opened but it did not deploy correctly.

They say Haaf attempted to cut the primary chute off and deploy the backup chute. The secondary chute did deploy, but authorities aren’t sure if it also did not work correctly, or if there just wasn’t enough time before Haaf hit the ground.

Witnesses described seeing a white parachute at the scene, and as of noon Monday, the main parachute hadn’t been located.

Family say Haaf started jumping when he was 40 years old and has done more than 1,200 jumps. His brother said there is no ill will toward Skydive Cross Keys, which released a statement acknowledging an accident, but would not comment further.

Haaf landed in the middle of Brookdale Boulevard, in Monroe Township, inside a townhouse complex.

“I thought it was a jet or a rocket, some kind of rocket going over,” witness Maria Mead said. “Then it passed over the tops of the roofs on Brookdale and over the trees. I saw a shredded red parachute flailing down and I heard an explosion. Then I heard a really loud bang.”

“I was sitting in my mom’s backyard and I heard plastic flapping and I looked up to my left and I could see him falling through the sky,” said Amy Lancetta. “Saw him come through the sky and heard the impact and just ran and screamed, ‘Call 911.'”

Pictures on social media show Haaf was heavily involved in the skydiving community.

“A good guy, very nice and all the conversations that we had it was about skydiving, how he loved it. It’s what he loved to do,” said neighbor Frank Mauger. “I even talked to him about me doing it and he was like he was the guy to go to.”

According to the U.S. Parachute Association, skydiving fatalities are rare with one death per about 160,000 jumps each year.

The Gloucester County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Haaf’s cause of death was due to multiple injuries and ruled the manner of death accidental.

The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office and the Monroe Township Police Department are investigating the incident with the assistance of the Federal Aviation Administration.

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MONROE TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Officials said the skydiver who fell to his death in a Monroe Township neighborhood on Sunday afternoon was an avid jumper. 

Officials identified Paul Haaf Jr., 54, as the man who died. 

Gloucester County Medical Examiner Dr. Gerald Feigin determined that Haaf's cause of death was multiple injuries and listed the manner of his death as accidental. 

According to investigators, Haaf was an experienced skydiver with more than 1,200 jumps and was a frequent visitor to SkyDive Cross Keys. 

The company issued a statement saying Haaf's parachute was deployed when he jumped. 

Investigators searched for that parachute Sunday, as witnesses said the backup parachute was still with Haaf when he landed. 

Neighbors in the Brookdale development said they were horrified and quickly called 911. 

"I heard a thud, we thought a car hit somebody then I saw this white thing lying there," said Rosemary Ilgenfritz. 

"It's traumatizing," said Kayla Maure. "I didn't see it happen, just seeing his body there is traumatizing." 

According to authorities, Haaf jumped from an altitude of 13,500 feet. 

He was supposed to deploy his parachute after a three-second pause and join three additional skydivers to all link up together. 

The jumper who deployed from the plane right after Haaf told authorities that Haaf was doing fast, violent and uncontrolled rotations. 

The jumper tried to catch up to Haaf, but he was going too fast. 

Haaf's main parachute did deploy, but continued a rapid and uncontrolled decent, according to information from authorities. 

The jumper behind Haaf said he saw Haaf deploy his emergency parachute, but at that point Haaf was too close to the ground. 

Action News confirmed Haaf, a Collings Lake resident, worked at the Acme in Mays Landing. A man who said he was Haaf's brother told Action News that Haaf died doing what he loved. 

He had been skydiving for many weekends over the past 14 years. 

The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office said they are investigating this accident.

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1 comment:

  1. There is no way, I will EVER jump out of a perfectly good airplane. cc: my dad and former military pilot.