Skydiving instructor may have been knocked unconscious by chute, officials say
Authorities say a skydiving instructor may have been knocked unconscious when his parachute deployed while on a tandem jump in the Hudson Valley, killing him and a Westchester real estate mogul making his first skydive.
Police in the Ulster County town of Plattekill said that eyewitness accounts from other jumpers nearby indicate that Alexander Chulsky of Brooklyn was knocked out by his chute during the jump with David Winoker of Chappaqua.
Preliminary autopsy results in the skydiving deaths indicate that the men died of blunt trauma from the impact of the fall, according to the Dutchess County medical examiner.
Winoker, 49, and 25-year-old instructor Chulsky, of Brooklyn, were killed when the two men -- who were tethered together -- plummeted to the ground near a farm off Route 32 in Modena, Plattekill police said.
Although published reports said some witnesses saw the parachute malfunction, the owner of the company that organized the jump disagreed. Joe Richard, president of the Gardiner-based Sky Dive the Ranch, said Sunday that the chute had opened and that the instructor had become "incapacitated" during the descent.
Richard provided no details other than to state that Chulsky's medical records were up to date.
Plattekill police declined to comment on the autopsy results, citing the ongoing investigation.
Attempts to contact Winoker's and Chulsky's family members on Monday were unsuccessful.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said federal investigators will look at the parachute and plane used in Friday's jump to try to determine whether equipment failure contributed to the accident.
"We will inspect the airplane and equipment, but the accident investigation will be done by local authorities," said the FAA's Kathleen Bergen. "This is a sporting activity, so it's not directly related to flight safety."
She said the federal agency has medical requirements for pilots, but not parachute instructors.
Speaking outside her brother's funeral service Sunday at Temple Shaaray Teflia in Bedford Corners, Winoker's sister, Gail, expressed anger and disbelief.
"It must have been horrible to be helpless as you are falling and not being able to control it," she said. "It must have been worse than a nightmare."
Winoker, president of Winoker Realty, is survived by his wife, Jillian, a native of Spring Valley; and three children.
Winoker's company owns commercial and residential properties in Manhattan, with a focus on the Garment District. He handled day-to-day operations, including tenant and landlord representation, asset and property management.
"Once widely recognized for its unparalleled knowledge and dominance of the Fashion District's real estate market, David has grown the business into an independent, midsized firm, covering every major submarket in Manhattan and providing clients with a full range of expert services," his company biography reads.