Expert: Skydiver's death caused by "mini-tornado"

CALVERTON, N.Y. -- A safety expert for a national skydiving association says a "mini tornado" caused the accident that killed a correction officer and injured his instructor during a tandem jump.

Gary Messina died in the accident Wednesday afternoon at Skydive Long Island in Calverton. His instructor, Christopher Scott, was critically injured.

Rich Winstock tells Newsday wind and dust churned into a funnel and made it impossible to control the parachute. Winstock is director of the United States Parachute Association and chairs its safety and training committee.

The FAA is investigating. It had no information Thursday about the accident's cause.

The National Weather Service said winds were in the 5- to 15-mph range at the time of the jump.

Messina wanted to toast his birthday with an unforgettable adventure, CBS New York station WCBS-TV reports. He would have turned 26 on Thursday.

"He's going to be missed," his brother, Anthony Messina, told WCBS-TV. "I love you, Gary. Happy birthday. I wish you were still here."

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