Family says skydiver killed in Jan. 7 jump knew risks, but loved the sport

By Sarah Blazonis, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, January 08, 2018, 8:57 PM EST

A day later, it's still unclear what went wrong during the jump that killed 25-year-old skydiver Joshua Butzke on Jan. 7.

“It’s incredibly tragic,” said Skydive City General Manager David “T.K.” Hayes. “The poor guy was 25 years old. It’s just sad.”

Hayes said Butzke completed about a dozen jumps during two days at the facility. Hayes said witnesses saw his parachute deploy on his last jump, but something unknown went wrong.

According to Hayes, Butzke was fairly new to skydiving and had done about 85 jumps total.

Butzke’s sister, Eva Wein, said her brother was born and raised in Port Jefferson Station, New York, but lived in Norwalk, CT, where he worked as a financial planner.

She said he played Division I soccer at Bucknell University and regularly contributed to scholarship funds for students at the high school where his father teaches. Wein said he lived for his close-knit family, which includes his parents, sisters, and nephews.

Butzke also loved skydiving. Wein said when family members expressed concerns about possible dangers, he told them that if he died, he would die doing what he loved.

This is the second death of a Skydive City patron in less than two months. Kurt A. Tracy died November 14 when his chute didn’t deploy.

"That's a pretty bad track record for us. That's certainly out of the norm,” said Hayes. “We've had several fatalities over the years. It's almost always an experienced skydiver."

Hayes estimates there have been about 16 deaths at the facility in 27 years. That’s out of an estimated 1.5 million jumps.

United States Parachute Association Director of Safety and Training Jim Crouch said the frequency of deaths at any skydiving business increases as its popularity grows and the number of jumps increases. He said these instances generally aren’t linked to the businesses themselves.

Hayes said Skydive City saw 72,000 jumps last year alone.

The investigation is ongoing. Hayes said he expected the FAA to be on site later this week.