Skydivers to Be Charged for Last Year's Jump from 1 WTC, Sources Say
MANHATTAN — Four men who breached One World Trade Center security last year to parachute from the tower will be charged this week — in the wake of an embarassing security breach by a 16-year-old who climbed to the top of the building, sources said.
The skydivers — James Brady, Marko Markovich and Andrew Rossig, who was once arrested for trying to plunge from the Bronx's Co-Op City, are due to surrender to police on Thursday, nearly six months to the day since their jump. Kyle Hartwell, who kept lookout at the base of the tower during the stunt, will also be charged, sources said.
In a similar move to the tactics of 16-year-old Justin Casquejo, who sneaked into the building through a gap in a fence and clambered up scaffolding before hopping an elevator, the skydivers crept through a hole in a fence at the landmark about 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, walked up to the 104th floor, jumped off and floated down to Water Street, sources said.
Investigators confiscated GoPro camera footage of the jump from the skydivers some time in February, but only pushed for their prosecution after Casquejo's stunt on March 16, sources said.
"There are a lot of parallels between what they did and what the kid did last week," a source said.
The helmet-camera footage shows three of the men standing on the lip of the tower overlooking the illuminated skyscrapers and chatting about how shocked they were that they didn't encounter any security, sources said.
"All right everybody, be safe and safe at the bottom," one of them is overheard saying on camera, a source said.
The camera keeps rolling as the trio plunges down into Lower Manhattan and glide to their landing spot near the intersection of West and Vesey streets, sources said.
Nearby security cameras caught the landing, but investigators couldn't immediately determine whether the men had jumped from a building or a plane, the NYPD said at the time.
"They were seen walking with parachutes from the location," then-police commissioner Raymond Kelly said at the time. "No banners, no notes were left."
Detectives tracked down the men when their names kept popping up during the course of the investigation as daredevils who routinely attempts similar stunts, sources said.
"This is what they do," a source said.
Investigators obtained a warrant and searched the jumpers' homes in February, uncovering the incriminating GoPro footage which they hoped to show to a grand jury along with other evidence, sources said.
But after Casquejo ascended the tower as well, investigators negotiated their surrender on charges of burglary, trespassing, and violating the administrative code, sources said.
Sources added that the men intentionally chose to carry out their stunt in the middle of the night in order to avoid being charged with reckless endangerment, which would have been more likely if there were a crowded street below.
Casquejo's high-profile break-in directed a spotlight on the lax security at the World Trade Center, which had once been called "fortresslike" but has since been revealed to be much more porous.
A lawyer for one of the skydivers accused police of scapegoating his clients for the Port Authority's own lax security.
"No one was harmed except for the Port Authority whose lack of security was exposed," said Timothy Parlatore, who represents Rossig. "The proper resolution is not to punish these young men, but to close security to prevent it from happening again."