National News

Connecticut man, 25, dies in Zephyrhills skydiving accident

Posted January 9, 2018 1:06 a.m. EST

ZEPHYRHILLS -- Joshua Butzke never shied away from adventure -- from skydiving to scuba diving, even cage diving with sharks.

He loved "traveling and experiencing things," his sister Eva Wein said Monday.

On Sunday, the 25-year-old, who was visiting from Connecticut, died from injuries he sustained in a skydiving accident at Skydive City, according to the Zephyrhills Police Department. The parachuting center is at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.

Butzke jumped from the plane at 13,500 feet and opened his parachute at about 3,500 feet, according to David "T.K." Hayes, general manager of Skydive City. Somewhere between 1,000 feet and 800 feet above the ground, the open parachute began spiraling, which caused a hard landing and "devastating" injuries, Hayes said.

Butzke was on his second day skydiving with the center, Hayes said, and had jumped 13 times over the two days. Butzke was licensed to skydive in New York in 2017, according to Hayes.

He was on his 85th jump ever, and was jumping with one other person when his parachute spun out of control, Hayes said.

Butzke's sister was with family members on Long Island, N.Y., on Monday. She called her brother "just a truly wonderful person."

"He loved his family with everything he had," Wein said . "He lived for his nephews. He lived for his family. Nothing in the world was more important to him."

She said she texted her brother two hours before his last jump.

Butzke was a financial planner for three years in Norwalk, Conn., Wein said. He was born and raised in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.

Officers responded about 4:20 p.m. Sunday to a call about a parachutist down at the business at 4241 Sky Dive Lane.

Butzke was taken to East Pasco Medical Center, officers said, where he was pronounced dead about 5:10 p.m. from injuries related to the fall.

It's unclear what caused Butzke's parachute to spin, Hayes said, but the Federal Aviation Administration will look for clues during its investigation. He expects officials to arrive Wednesday.

"I don't know that we're ever going to be able to come to an exact conclusion," Hayes said Monday. Skydive City closed Sunday after the incident, but skydivers were back out on Monday.

In early November, an experienced 36-year-old parachutist died at Skydive City.

The FAA will investigate the latest incident along with the Zephyrhills Police Department, authorities said.

Contact TyLisa C. Johnson at tyjohnson@tampabay.com. Follow @tylisajohnson.