FAA: Wingwalker falls to death from biplane in Florida during air show

Airshow going on nearby

LAND O' LAKES, Fla. - A wingwalker is dead after a biplane he was on made a maneuver and his parachute did not deploy as he fell from the plane to his death, according to officials with the Pasco County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office and the Federal Aviation Administration.

PCSO spokesperson Melanie Snow said emergency crews found the body of the victim in the area of Wesley Chapel Boulevard and Grand Oaks Boulevard in Land O' Lakes.

A witness told our Scripps partners at ABC Action News he saw two wingwalkers on the biplane as the plane made a maneuver around 1,000 feet in the air. Witnesses said the victim fell from the plane and he was too low to fully deploy his parachute.

Investigators say the malfunction happened as the man was performing a maneuver at an air show at the Topp of Tampa Airport.

Jenn Ritter, a witness who was at the airport, told ABC Action News that the plane took off with two wingwalkers and the pilot in the back of the plane.

Ritter said the plane had been in the air for five to ten minutes when something went wrong. "I looked off in the distance and I saw something fall from the plane. I had no idea it was a body."

The yellow and blue biplane circled the area where the wingwalker fell, Ritter said, in an apparent attempt to see the precise location of where the man fell. She also said the plane appeared to be low when the wingwalker fell.

When the plane landed, Ritter said those on the ground knew something was wrong. "They ran up to the clubhouse when they landed and got out of the plane -- and they were down a guy."

A resident in the subdivision where the man landed said he heard a loud crash in the trees behind his home and went out to investigate the sound.

"I see the parachute over there and I get closer," Alfi Acebes said, "and I see the dead body over there. I can only see his hand and his face, you know. He was dead." 

The FAA spokesperson said they would only be investigating the parachute for its failed deployment, but later added that the FAA's investigation may broaden when it was learned that the victim was a wingwalker.

The NTSB has also been notified of the accident.

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