PITTSBURGH — Alan Danko, 37, said he and Don Sulkowski, 31, parachuted off the 841-foot-high U.S. Steel Tower to show their British counterparts the proper method of skydiving from a skyscraper.
Danko and Sulkowski, both of Pittsburgh, floated from the roof of the 64-story building to a spot near a waiting getaway car just minutes before the start of the 1986 Pittsburgh Marathon.
Danko said in a telephone interview that he and Sulkowski, who have 3,100 jumps between them and were instructors at the Beaver Valley Skydivers Club, have always wanted to jump from the top of the building, but didn’t seriously consider it until two British skydivers jumped from the Empire State Building April 24, 1986.
″But they used static lines,″ Danko said, referring a cord attached to the building that automatically deployed the skydivers’ parachutes as they fell.
″We wanted to show them that Americans know how to jump off their own buildings,″ Danko said. ″We love America. So it was sort of a matter of pride.″
Danko said he and Sulkowski made a two-second free fall before deploying small pilot chutes which pulled out the main parachutes. BASE jumping is an acronym that refers to four categories of launch point used: building, antenna, span (e.g., bridges) and earth (e.g., cliffs).
Danko said their jump was carefully planned to ensure safety.
″We knew what we were doing,″ he said. ″We had 10 people on the ground to keep our landing zone clear. Safety was the ultimate thing.″
Both skydivers were whisked away from their landing site in the nearby Civic Arena parking lot before startled security guards and police officers could apprehend them, police said.
A third man who accompanied the parachutists to the top of the building was arrested after he captured the stunt on videotape.
Thomas Zukowski, 45, of Gibsonia was charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, said Patrolman David McCulloch. He was freed on $200 cash bond.
The three got on the roof of the building by telling security guards they were with a television station and planned to film the marathon, McCulloch said.
It was the first time anybody had jumped or parachuted from Pittsburgh’s tallest skyscraper.
″We do not approve and hope it doesn’t happen again,″ said Donald Aubrecht, assistant chief of operations for the police department.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Cox Media Group