Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Public safety

Experienced skydiver from Tampa dies during jump in Zephyrhills

ZEPHYRHILLS — An experienced skydiver performing a practice jump as part of a team died Saturday after landing in a pond at high speed, according to information from Skydive City, where the team launched.

Keith Murray, 50, of Tampa was performing a jump with three other team members and a videographer, according to a statement released by Skydive City president and general manager David TK Hayes.

After six years and more than a thousand jumps, Lauren Murray, 26, said she had let go of some of the dread that comes with knowing her father was passionate about such an inherently dangerous sport.

"I think everyone had just kind of gotten over the fear of him doing it," Lauren said. "You know the risk, but it becomes normal."

So when the news came that Murray initiated a fatal turn at too low a height Saturday, it was a complete shock, Lauren said.

"He was very experienced," Lauren said. "He'd drive up in his camper every weekend and stay right on the cross zone. He'd jump multiple times a day all weekend when he could."

Hayes said Murray's parachute deployed normally, and his flight down was uneventful until the landing.

Murray initiated a turn too low to the ground and hit a one-acre pond at a high rate of speed, Hayes said. Several local skydivers trained as paramedics or with other medical experience responded. Murray was given CPR and other assistance before getting transported to Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, but could not be revived, Hayes said.

The local skydiving community was shaken by the accident. Those who had gathered in the bar at Skydive City on Sunday said Murray had learned to jump at that site and developed his passion there. He was a friend and a part of the community, they said.

"It's a very tight-knit community," Lauren Murray said. "He had a lot of friends who live right there at the drop zone. They'd jump all day and then they'd all hang out and party. My dad really enjoyed not just the jumping but the community."

Lauren said her dad had always wanted to try skydiving, but it wasn't until her parents divorced and Lauren moved away for college that her dad took up the sport. He tried it and was hooked.

"Wherever we went around the country, he would find a drop zone and he would go," Lauren said. "He met people all over the world and got into some really fun group adventures."

Murray's Facebook page showcases his interest in skydiving and several friends have paid tribute with pictures of him jumping from planes.

Teresa Lentini Hlywa lived in the same neighborhood as Murray and convinced him to go skydiving with her after she showed him a video of her jumping on her 50th birthday. The two instantly became skydiving buddies, and would drive up to Zephyrhills together every weekend.

Lentini Hlywa said Murray quickly progressed and surpassed her in skill, but he never ditched her for more advanced partners.

"He just was really skilled and understood aerodynamics and how to use his body," Lentini Hlywa said. "Instead of saying, 'I'm going go jump with these other guys,' he pulled me up to his level."

Lentini Hlywa said Murray was always a gentleman, despite the raw, crass nature of some who participate in the sport. In addition to skydiving, Murray owned a small software development firm and loved craft beer and wingsuit flying.

Murray was a well-known skydiver with at least 900 jumps at Skydive City alone, Hayes said. He was training to compete at the USPA National Skydiving Championships in Illinois next month, Hayes said, and planned to visit his daughter Lauren in Michigan on the same trip.

Lauren said her dad had talked about taking her skydiving, but they hadn't had the chance. Now, she said, she'll never try the sport.

At least five other people have died during jumps at Skydive City in the past four years.

"When you skydive, you know and accept the risks," Lentini Hlywa said. "But this is my third skydiving family member I've lost this year, which is unbelievable. He and I were so close and he was so special to me. It just ripped my heart out."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443. Follow @cljohnst.

Comments
Lakeland father, girlfriend face charges in death of 6-year-old girl

Lakeland father, girlfriend face charges in death of 6-year-old girl

A Lakeland man and his girlfriend face charges of first-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter in the death of his 6-year-old daughter last week.Larry Lewis Golden Jr., 26, Breonna B. Wren, 21, were arrested Friday and are being held without bail ...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Safety Harbor fire chief departs: ‘Take pride in the job’

Safety Harbor fire chief departs: ‘Take pride in the job’

SAFETY HARBOR — When Fire Chief Joe Accetta started working at the Safety Harbor Fire Department, Fire Station 53 was a double wide in the middle of a field now home to Mease Countryside Hospital.Now almost four decades of challenges and promotions l...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Argument over dog leads to fatal shooting in Polk County

Argument over dog leads to fatal shooting in Polk County

A Fort Meade man was killed Monday night and two others were wounded after Polk County deputies say they approached a man while searching for a lost dog.The shooting occurred around 6:45 p.m. at the home of suspected shooter Charles Peddycoart, at 41...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Two people drowned and another suffered life-threatening injuries in the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.Investigators said all three cases appear to be accidents, but the incidents stand as a reminder that summer, with vacation ...
Published: 06/18/18
Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

SEMINOLE — She was 22 when deputies said a man forced her at knifepoint into the woods off Seminole Boulevard and sexually battered her in February 1987.The case went cold, but now the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said it has arrested the man it ...
Published: 06/18/18
Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

TAMPA — Police are seeking the public’s help in locating the driver who fatally struck a pedestrian on Sunday night and then drove off.The incident took place at 9:15 p.m. near the intersection of N Nebraska Avenue and E Linebaugh Avenue.No details a...
Published: 06/18/18
St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

HUDSON — A 16-year-old St. Petersburg teen who was seven months pregnant was fatally injured in a crash Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident took place at 9:11 p.m. on Little Road south of Hudson Avenue. The teen, Emily ...
Published: 06/18/18
Tampa man rescued from near drowning in waters off Whiskey Joe’s

Tampa man rescued from near drowning in waters off Whiskey Joe’s

A Tampa man was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries on Sunday after he was rescued from a near drowning off the shores of Whiskey Joe’s Tampa Bar & Grill, a popular hangout on the beach of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.When police officers a...
Published: 06/18/18
Man caught in rip current, drowns off Lido Beach

Man caught in rip current, drowns off Lido Beach

A man who was swimming off Lido Beach got caught in a rip current and drowned Sunday night.According to the Sarasota Police Department, the unidentified man was swimming with a woman near Big Pass, a boater channel, around 10 p.m. before becoming cau...
Published: 06/18/18
Child, 1, killed in single-car crash in Ruskin

Child, 1, killed in single-car crash in Ruskin

RUSKIN — A 1-year-old child was killed Sunday night and four family members were hospitalized when their vehicle overturned into a ditch.Deputies, responding to the scene after receiving several 911 calls around 6:30 p.m., located the overturned vehi...
Published: 06/18/18