YouTube video posted by Gulfport Police Chief Rob Vincent
A skydive before a Beach Bums Winter Wonderland volleyball event on the 5000 block of Gulfport Beach went severely wrong Saturday, December 2. Three skydivers were attempting to parachute onto the beach near the volleyball courts when one of them, Gerard “G” Krokus of St. Petersburg crashed into a light post and tree, breaking his fibula and tibia according to Dominic Nelson, one of the organizers of the event.
Gulfport police received the call for the accident at 10:05 a.m. Officer Gene Novak responded at 10:08 a.m. as well as Pasadena Fire and Rescue who transported Krokus to Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg. The other two skydivers landed safely on the beach area just south of the volleyball courts, near the scene of the accident.
Krokus was dressed as Santa Claus and was delivering gifts of volleyballs and a little girl’s elf on a shelf for patrons of the Beach Bum’s tournament on Gulfport Beach.
“We have good news that G is now out of surgery, in good spirits and recovering in the hospital with release expected Tuesday ,” said Nelson on the gofundme page he started for Krokus.
Nelson also told the Gabber on Monday, December 4 that Krokus will need a second surgery on the leg. According to Nelson doctor bills for the injured Santa will be $12,500 and medical personnel at the scene said the leg fracture was one of the worst they had seen.
However, Councilmember Dan Liedtke, who attended the event, was relieved the accident was not worse.
“For everyone attending and the skydiver it was fortunate he was not more seriously injured,” said Liedtke.
According to officials, despite the accident, proper regulations were followed for the jump.
“Although this was not a city of Gulfport sponsored event they were Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permitted for the event and went through all the proper channels and approvals,” said Justin Shea, Cultural Facilities and Events Supervisor for the city of Gulfport. Shea added, “He just came in really fast and hit the tree.”
Liedtke’s account was similar. “I am not a skydiver so I can’t speculate on the details of why it happened, but the other two jumpers landed fine and the other one was coming in higher and missed the beach and hit the tree,” said Liedtke.
Police Chief Robert Vincent confirmed that the stunt went through the proper permissions channels.
“The skydivers sent an email to us to secure permissions from FAA to jump and since it was on public property, that was everything they needed to do,” said Vincent. “A report was filed by Gulfport and goes back to the FAA for investigation from here.”
Liedtke talked about the planning that goes into these types of jumps and mirrored Vincent’s comments about FAA cooperation.
“Skydivers try to be very meticulous and try to time everything out accurately down to the last second when they jump and land,” said Liedtke. “So we will be working with the FAA to help improve jumps in the future.”
Residents noticed this week the the Australian Pine that Krokus crashed into had been removed from the beach. Said City Manager Jim O’Reilly on Wednesday December 6, the crash had “damaged the tree beyond saving,” adding that the tree is also an invasive species. O’Reilly confirmed that the city does not intend to plant another tree in its place.
News of a skydiving Santa crash on Gulfport beach also proved to be viral, with multiple media outlets around the nation and on the internet picking up the story.