Tampa man dies after falling from airplane in Pasco

Published Oct. 20, 2013

LAND O'LAKES — A man fell to his death from a biplane Saturday afternoon when his parachute didn't deploy, authorities said.

What Mark Curto, 62, of Tampa was doing when he fell from the plane into a wooded area behind a subdivision was under dispute Saturday evening.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office and the Federal Aviation Administration said Curto was performing a wing-walking stunt as part of an airshow at nearby Tampa North Flight Center.

Chuck Norris, a flight instructor at Tampa North Flight Center, said Curto was skydiving as recreation, not as part of the Festival of Flight event at the flight center.

Keith Carver, spokesman for Tampa North Flight Center, declined to comment. A woman who answered the phone at Mark Curto's home also declined to comment.

Curto was an Indianapolis native and skydiving enthusiast who recently lost his wife of 36 years, Judy, to breast cancer, according to an obituary published in the Tampa Bay Times after her death April 30. Mark and Judy Curto both loved skydiving and scuba diving, according to the obituary.

Norris, the flight instructor, said Curto had come to Tampa North to go up in a plane flown by pilot Ben Foster and go skydiving. Foster did not return a call for comment Saturday.

Curto's body landed behind homes at 4610 and 4616 McBrine Court, a cul-de-sac near Grand Oaks Boulevard. Children bicycled past the crime scene tape as a Sheriff's Office forensics van pulled up Saturday afternoon.

Hours before Curto's death, a pilot suffered minor injuries when his small plane went down in a Zephyrhills field, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said. The pilot, who was alone, had just taken off when he noticed a mechanical error and brought the aircraft down at 3944 Gall Blvd. and Old Crystal Springs Road about 11:30 a.m., spokeswoman Melanie Snow said. Deputies described the pilot's injuries as "very minor." His name was not released.

Times staff writer Claire Wiseman contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or