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St. Pete man dies in Nebraska skydiving accident

Police said due to "unknown reasons," the pair didn't "sufficiently" slow their descent as they got to the ground. The parachute operated properly, witnesses said.
Credit: Александр Боев - st
FILE: Skydiver

CRETE, Neb. — A St. Petersburg man has died as a result of a skydiving accident in Nebraska, according to local law enforcement. 

The Crete Police Department said 34-year-old William Seale of St. Pete died following a "tandem" jump with an experienced parachutist. It happened on Sept. 15 at the Crete Airport. 

Police say witnesses told them Seale and 56-year-old Romulo Suarez of Crete exited an aircraft operated by Skydive Atlas LLC as a pair for the skydive, and the pair's parachute fully deployed as it was meant to. 

However, police said due to "unknown reasons," the pair didn't "sufficiently" slow their descent as they got to the ground.

Witnesses immediately called emergency medical crews and local fire and rescue departments to respond, police said. 

Suarez, who was the experienced parachutist, survived the jump and was rushed to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries. He is still in critical condition, police said. 

Seale was rushed to another hospital where he died. 

The department said it is assisting the Federal Aviation Administration with its investigation. 

Multiple news outlets, including KLKN TV, report the skydiving company released the following statement:

The Skydive Atlas Family is grieving today after the tragic loss of a novice skydiver and serious injury to an experienced tandem master. The incident took place on Thursday, Sept. 15 during the final descent of a typical skydive, but at this time it’s not possible to precisely know what the cause of the accident, so we won’t speculate.

An investigation is underway.

Safety has been and must be our top priority, every day, and every jump. Each skydiver and each Skydive Atlas team member receives thorough training and counseling. Skydive Atlas, a member of the U.S. Parachute Association Group, has performed nearly 20,000 safe jumps since starting business in 2005. The tandem master involved has more than 1,800 jumps alone.

Sean Tillery, owner-operator of Skydive Atlas has more than 13,000 personal jumps and is committed to safely introducing people to the sport, which is growing in its appeal nationwide. 

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