In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy SEAL fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River. The accident occurred a few minutes after noon near Liberty State Park, a large New Jersey park across from Manhattan where thousands of people a year catch ferries to the nearby national treasure, the AP reports. The parachutist, whose identity was not immediately released, was a member of an elite Navy parachute team called the Leap Frogs, a Navy spokesman says. The cause of the parachute malfunction is under investigation. "I'm terribly saddened," says Nancy Malinowski, a resident of Cranford, NJ, who was in Liberty State Park and knew something had gone wrong when she saw a parachute with nobody attached to it descend behind a building.
Malinowski says the parachutist was among four who drifted down from high in the sky from two helicopters. One of the parachutists descended with a large American flag. The Navy says the parachutist was rescued immediately from the water by US Coast Guard personnel who were standing by in vessels to support the aerial demonstration that featured the coordinated parachute jump. "It was devastating. We felt terrible," says Malinowski. "We figured it had to be a young man trying to do a little PR for the service. On Memorial Day weekend. It couldn't have been worse." (Two years ago, a US Army skydiver died after a collision with a Navy jumper at the Chicago Air & Water Show.)