About 8 seconds of free-fall from the top of the World Trade Center mark an amazing stunt, captured on video, which resulted in the arrests of four men.
Three men who jumped off the World Trade Center and then gently landed with parachutes on the streets of Manhattan were arraigned late Monday along with a fourth man who helped them get away.
The so-called BASE jump, referring to the act of leaping from a building, antenna, span or earth, happened in the early morning in September from what has since become the nation’s tallest tower.
The World Trade Center is a complex of buildings rising up on the same plot of land where two towers were felled by a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The flagship tower, 1 World Trade Center, is expected to open this summer.
New York officials have spent millions of dollars protecting the site, including saturating the area with officers and making visitors pass through metal detectors to reach fountains memorializing the victims of the attacks. But the BASE jumpers, and a 16-year-old arrested last week for allegedly climbing onto the building’s spire last week, have said they reached the site through holes in fences.
“We just kind of walked in,” BASE jumper Andrew Rossig, 33, told the New York Times, before surrendering to police Monday. “God forbid it was somebody else getting in there with a real intention to harm New Yorkers.”
Rossig, James Brady, 32, Marko Markovich, 27, and Kyle Hartwell, 29, have been charged with felony burglary, misdemeanor reckless endangerment and misdemeanor jumping from a structure. They face up to seven years in prison on the felony charge.
Brady was once employed by a construction contractor working on the World Trade Center. But his attorney, Andrew Mancilla, told the Los Angeles Times that Brady’s employment had nothing to do with how they accessed the area.
Authorities started investigating after witnesses reported seeing jumpers falling from the sky. Police reviewed security camera footage and eventually secured search warrants that helped them get video of the jumps.
Prosecutors and attorneys for the men had been negotiating surrenders since the search warrants were served in January.
Mancilla said the 16-year-old’s alleged trespass “put the heat on authorities to bring this case a little quicker” than originally planned. Still, Mancilla is hoping the men get off with probation.
“They intended no disrespect,” the attorney said of the jumpers. “Their jump was purely because this is an enormous passion of theirs. It doesn’t make it right but it doesn’t make it sinister.”
Defense attorneys posted the incriminating helmet-mounted GoPro video on YouTube this week. It shows one of the jumpers landing on the street and quickly scurrying away to a sidewalk area shrouded by shrubbery. Mancilla said ad revenue generated by the video would be donated to a 9/11 victims’ fund.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York Police Department called the jump “a lawless and selfish act that clearly endangered the public.”
“Being a thrill-seeker does not give immunity from the law,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said in a statement.
The men are due back in court July 23.