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Four arrested in WTC parachute jump (with stunning video)

NEW YORK — The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York police commissioner denounced the parachute jump off 1 World Trade Center last fall by three skydiving enthusiasts as a lawless act that put others in danger.

"The Port Authority joins the NYPD in condemning this lawless and selfish act that clearly endangered the public," the agency said in a statement early Tuesday. "One of the jumpers worked construction at the WTC and violated the spirit of respect and reverence for this sacred site that almost all connected with the WTC project feel."

Four men — three daredevils and someone accused of being an accomplice — were arrested Monday in connection with the Sept. 30 "base jumping" from the nation's tallest building. They were arraigned on charges including felony burglary.

"These arrests should send a message to anyone thinking about misusing a landmark this way," Police Commissioner William Bratton said. "Being a thrill-seeker does not give immunity from the law."

The arrests came days after a New Jersey teenager was accused of unlawfully entering the site, eluding an inattentive security guard and spending about two hours atop the 1,776-foot-tall tower. The skyscraper, still under construction, crowns the rebuilt World Trade Center, a project steeped in security concerns.

The New York Police Department said last fall that investigators were looking for two parachutists in dark jumpsuits seen floating near the building around 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, landing by a nearby skyscraper and walking away.

It was "very exhilarating," one of the accused jumpers, Andrew Rossig, said Monday as he and co-defendant James Brady headed to a police precinct to surrender.

"It's a fair amount of free-fall time," he said. "You really get to enjoy the view of the city and see it from a different perspective."

Rossig, an avid BASE jumper — the acronym stands for "building, antenna, span, earth" — said the skydivers took care to keep from endangering anyone, choosing a time when streets would be largely deserted. Brady, an ironworker who formerly worked at the trade center, declined to comment.

Arraigned late Monday were Rossig, 33, from Slate Hill, N.Y.; Brady, 32, from Kings Park, N.Y.; Marko Markovich, 27, from Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.; and Kyle Hartwell, 29, from East Patchogue, N.Y. They face charges of misdemeanor reckless endangerment and misdemeanor jumping from a structure in addition to felony burglary.

It wasn't immediately clear how investigators zeroed in on Rossig, Brady, skydiving instructor Markovich and Hartwell, accused of being their cohort on the ground. Police searched their homes last month and got video of the jump, which hadn't been posted online or otherwise publicized, Rossig attorney Timothy Parlatore said. But he said authorities didn't signal arrests were imminent until 16-year-old Justin Casquejo's arrest last week.

The NYPD devotes more than 200 officers, surveillance cameras and other technology to protect the perimeter of the site, while Port Authority police and private security agents guard the inside. Ultimately, plans call for a $40 million system of barriers and checkpoints around the 16-acre trade center site.

But Rossig said the jumpers got in simply by walking through a gap in a fence, echoing an account the Port Authority says Casquejo gave police about what he did. Casquejo, of Weehawken, N.J., faces a misdemeanor trespassing charge.

Four arrested in WTC parachute jump (with stunning video) 03/25/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 1:24pm]
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