Saratoga County

Sky diver’s death ruled a suicide

The man who fell to his death late Sunday afternoon while sky diving removed his parachute on purpos

The man who fell to his death late Sunday afternoon while sky diving removed his parachute on purpose, police said Monday.

The death of Robert E. Raecke, 60, of Duanesburg has been ruled a suicide.

Raecke landed in a farm field off state Route 32 in the town of Northumberland around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. The field is not far from the small airfield where the Saratoga Skydiving Adventures plane took off.

The initial investigation by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office indicated that the parachute being used by Raecke had become detached from his body after he jumped from the plane.

Further investigation indicates that Raecke intentionally released his parachute after jumping, police said.

“It appears that Raecke jumped from the plane and intentionally unhooked his parachute plunging to his death,” says a statement from Investigator Rick Capasso of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office.

The man’s death was caused by “blunt force trauma,” according to an autopsy performed by pathologist Dr. Michael Sikirica at Albany Medical Center.

Capasso said that Raecke was an experienced sky diving enthusiast, having made “thousands of jumps” during his lifetime.

The plane was flown by Saratoga Skydiving Adventures, which operates out of the Heber Air Park but is not associated with the small airport other than to rent space there.

A person associated with the sky diving business said “everything was done by the book, it was a tragic incident.”

Raecke jumped out of the airplane with another sky diver who landed safely using his parachute, according to authorities.

In June 2008 a similar incident happened in Duanesburg with a 29-year-old Schenectady man jumping out of an airplane without a parachute on a sky diving flight. The man, Sloan Carafello, flew from the Duanesburg Skydiving Club and landed on a house at nearby 7951 Duanesburg Road.

Carafello had asked the Duanesburg Skydiving Club if he could take a ride in one of their airplanes so he could take photos at high altitude for a school project. He was on an afternoon flight with three sky divers. When the sky divers jumped from the plane Carafello unfastened his seat belt and jumped out the plane door before it could be closed.

Club owner Bob Rawlins — also the owner of Saratoga Skydiving Adventures — discussed Carafello’s death with The Gazette after the 2008 incident but could not be reached for comment Monday.

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