Moments after Amber Gandolfo jumped out of a plane for the first time Tuesday, powerful winds over Manorville pushed her and her skydiving instructor off course.
"He was trying to find places where we could land safely," said Gandolfo, of Massapequa Park. "There were buildings, power lines and trees and ponds."
"I kind of closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Gandolfo, 25, said Thursday. "We broke through the trees and our canopy got stuck on the top of the tree, and we were just hanging."
The medical assistant hooked her arms around a branch and held on tight, more than 30 feet above the ground. "I was hanging on for dear life," she said. "If I fall from the tree, it's not going to be pretty landing."
Minutes later, police and firefighters arrived. They cut through the trees and brought the stranded pair down in a ladder truck's bucket. Neither was seriously injured.
"This is the first time in 27 years in business this has happened," said Ray Maynard, owner of Skydive Long Island.
Before the wind gusts, Gandolfo said she enjoyed the exhilaration of free falling. "I was so excited. I was having so much fun," she said. "He pulled the parachute and it was more beautiful."
The first inkling she had that something was wrong was when she didn't see the other five skydivers in her group, including her boyfriend, Adam Gottlieb, 25, also of Massapequa Park. The winds had also pushed Gottlieb and his instructor around. They ended up landing on a fairway at the nearby Swan Lake golf course.
When he learned his girlfriend had been caught on a tree, his first thought was "Oh man, she's going to kill me," Gottlieb recalled Thursday.
It was he who had talked Gandolfo into making her skydiving debut. But Gandolfo said she doesn't blame her boyfriend: She likes to try new experiences. In May, the couple went ziplining in the jungles of Montego Bay in Jamaica. That was her idea.
Gottlieb, who has gone skydiving twice before, said he's done for the summer.
Gandolfo, however, isn't ruling out another free fall. "I am not going to do it again right away, but at the same time I am not going to say never," she said.