FAA to examine parachute packing in Calverton skydiving fatality

One person was killed and another seriously injured on July 30, 2014 in a skydiving accident at Skydive Long Island in Calverton, Riverhead police said. The injured person was airlifted in critical condition to Stony Brook University Hospital. (Credit: Stringer News Service)

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The FAA probe into a fatal skydiving accident in Calverton is looking into whether the parachute was packed properly and deployed correctly, an agency official said Friday.

A parallel investigation into the skydiving company by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was called off when it was determined that the FAA had primary jurisdiction, officials said.

Both agencies had been looking into the factors leading to the ill-fated tandem jump on July 30. Gary Messina, 25, an off-duty New York City correction officer, was killed and his instructor, Christopher Scott, 28, critically injured.

Skydive Long Island founder Ray Maynard has blamed the accident on a "dust devil," a strong whirlwind. Witnesses told Riverhead police that the parachute had deployed.

OSHA closed its investigation into training, equipment and other potential safety issues following a brief court battle with Calverton-based Skydive over whether the agency had jurisdiction.

Maynard provided an OSHA inspector information on employees and equipment on July 31, but then balked at letting the inspector speak to employees privately, according to court documents.

Skydive's attorney had been seeking to reverse a federal judge's order to let in OSHA inspectors.

"They had no jurisdiction," Maynard said Friday. "When OSHA showed up, I was still in shock with what happened, and I'm being the good guy to let them do their work. We have nothing to hide.

"The FAA is the investigation authority, and OSHA shouldn't have been there," he said.

But Maynard said it's "totally wrong" that the FAA is looking at parachute issues.

"The FAA knows that everything was packed and done totally according to the FAA" rules, he said Friday.

OSHA officials said they sometimes start their own probe until it's clear who has jurisdiction, and the U.S. Labor Department, which governs OHSA, now says it's the FAA.

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