EAST STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A day of skydiving turns deadly in the Poconos.
One man fell to his death during a routine jump and Eyewitness News has an exclusive interview with one person who saw it happen.
74-year-old Ed Harney was skydiving at Sky’s the Limit which operates out of the Pocono Stroudsburg Airport. He made impact in the woods on the other side of Airport Road, less than half a mile from the landing area.
Around 11 a.m. Sunday, Rogelio Mendez was in his backyard with his daughter when they heard a strange noise.
“We turned around like that and just, we just saw a body falling down. Inside we were thinking about how he was going to activate the parachute but then, disappeared and we hear the sound,” Mendez said.
Mendez lives on Sarah Way in East Stroudsburg. On the other side of the woods and across the street is Sky’s the Limit. He knew it was a skydiver and that something had gone terribly wrong. Mendez called 911.
“I was waiting for him to activate the parachute, I saw the parachute behind him really far. He was falling down, the parachute separate from him,” Mendez said.
Mendez says Harney was still in a free fall position with his chest to the ground and arms and legs extended as he disappeared into the woods. State police arrived within minutes and located the him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Monroe County Coroner Tom Yanac said Harney had gone for a routine skydive at Sky’s the Limit Sunday morning. State Police say Harney was an experienced skydiver.
“Of course an autopsy is going to be done to decide on what the cause of death was. It could have happened in the air, something could have happened with the chute. We are not sure yet,” Yanac said.
A State Police release says Harney jumped with three other experienced jumpers. The group seperated from Harney at around 5,000 feet.
Harney’s first parachute opened, he began to spiral and then detached from his parachute and disappeared into the wood line, police say.
Yanac says an autopsy will be preformed later this week. Eyewitness News reached out to Sky’s the Limit for a statement. As of Sunday evening we have not received a response.
Mendez says he’s still in shock.
“It’s hard. You saw a body five seconds or three seconds before dying,” Mendez said.
The coroner pronounced Harney dead at 1:13 p.m.
The Federal Aviation Administration was notified and will be collecting all parachute apparatuses.
Accidents like this have become more rare especially in the last decade. United States Parachute Association recorded 15 skydiving fatalities in 2019 out of an estimated 3.3 million jumps.
Eyewitness News did confirm the owner of the Sky’s the Limit is a registered safety and training advisor with the United States Parachute Organization.
The Sky’s The Limit posted a statement on their Facebook page regarding the incident:
The statement reads: “Yesterday was a very sad day. We lost a member of our skydiving family. Goodbye to one of the most beautiful gentlemen, Sky’s the Limit, had the pleasure of knowing for many years and was honored to be a part of his life. Our hearts, prayers, and thoughts are with his family. Blue skies, we will miss you very much. Many thanks to everyone who has reached out with love and support.”
The FAA also released the following statement on Monday:
“Federal Aviation Administration investigations of skydiving events are limited to inspecting the packing of the parachute, reserve parachute, and rules of flight for the pilot and aircraft. The FAA does not investigate to determine the cause of the event. Please contact local authorities for additional information about the accident.”
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