A New York City correction officer died in a skydiving accident on Long Island the day before his 26th birthday, officials and relatives say.
Gary Messina, who has a 5-year-old son and lives with his parents in Medford, was skydiving with an instructor at Skydive Long Island in Calverton around 4 p.m. Wednesday when the two plummeted to the ground during a jump.
The instructor, Chris Scott, survived but is in critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital, Riverhead police say.
Messina's younger brother, Anthony Messina, told NBC 4 New York his brother was "the best person you could ever know." He said he worked hard at his job and "did everything" for his little boy, Jake.
Neighbor Ron Scarpati said he's known Gary Messina since he was born. He called the correction officer a "great kid" and said he felt horrible for the man's son.
"It was something to watch those two together," Scarpati said. "I don't know what's going to happen now with that little boy."
Skydive Long Island, which has a training school and programs for recreational skydivers, said a gust of wind may have caused the parachute to malfunction.