A man died after his parachute failed during a South Jersey skydiving jump Sunday afternoon. He landed in a Sewell backyard in the 100 block of Tuckahoe Road.
Arkady Shenker, 49, wore a specialized parachute known as a "wing suit," which allows a skydiver to move forward while descending. It is unclear whether the suit opened properly, according to the Gloucester County prosecutor's office. Its functionality will be investigated by federal authorities.
"We seen him coming down. He was going around and around and the chute was here and he was here," said witness Lamont Dye. "As soon as I seen that I knew he was in trouble."
The Brooklyn native was parachuting with Freefall Adventures in Monroe Township. He was an experienced skydiver with 350 jumps and a frequent visitor of Freefall Adventures. His last jump from an airplane occurred at about 2 p.m. There were 15 others onboard the plane that took off from Cross Keys Airport.
As Shenker drew closer to the ground, his parachute did not open. Witnesses said he was spiraling as he was coming down fast. Emergency Medical Services transported him via helicopter to Kennedy Hospital in Washington Township where he was pronounced dead at 3:38 p.m.
"He knew it was risky," said Shenker's son, Alex Shenker. "But he didn't want to live scared of risk."
While at the scene, NBC10 reporter Na'eem Douglas saw more skydivers parachuting from the sky hours after Shenker's accident.
The Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) governs certain aspects of skydiving and requires backup chutes to be packed by a certified jumper. Aside from that however, skydiving is a self-regulated sport.
"It happens quickly," said Nancy Koreen of the US Parachute Association. "So it needs to become second nature how to handle any problem or situation that might arise."
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Koreen tells NBC10 that accidents are rare.
"Last year there were 24 skydiving accidents out of 3.2 million jumps," she said. "There have been between 20 and 25 accidents over the last five to ten years."
Including Shenker's death, there have been five skydiving deaths with Freefall Adventures in the past eight years. One of those deaths was that of Rutledge Mayor C. Scott Shields, who died on March 25, 2011.
Freefall Adventures describes their skydiving experience on their website: "Taking skydiving from the extreme to the mainstream, our skydives are made from 13,500 feet, 35% higher than our competition. Utilizing the latest technology, combined with our specialized skydiving instruction, we can have you in the air making your first skydive within minutes of your arrival."
NBC10 reached out to Freefall Adventures. The company replied they had no comment. The FAA is investigating the accident.