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Empire State Jumpers Told to Get Off Fence, So They Did

April 25, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ When a guard spotted two men perched on a fence enclosing the 86th-floor observatory at the Empire State Building, he ordered them to get down. They did, but not the way he expected.

The two parachuted off the fence Thursday and glided down 1,050 feet to Fifth Avenue, where one sped away in a taxi and the other, entangled in a light post, was arrested.

″Somebody was saying, ‘Get off the fence, get off the fence,’ ″ recalled the parachutist who was caught, 25-year-old Michael McCarthy of London. ″So we just got off the fence. We went that way,″ he said, pointing outward.

It was the first time anyone had parachuted off the 102-story, 1,472-foot building, according to security chief Sal Rinaldi. McCarthy said that was precisely why he and Alasdair Boyd, 27, also of London, decided to jump.

″It’s never been done before, and people had sort of said it was impossible to do because of the shape of it,″ he said.″But you can in fact jump off two sides, either the north side or the south side.″

″If you’re going to jump in America, the single most significant historical building ... must be the Empire State Building,″ added Boyd. ″Today was a really, really beautiful day.″

Parachutists have dropped previously from the 110-story World Trade Center, whose towers have smooth sides. The Empire State Building has setbacks at several levels.

McCarthy said he parachuted from the Eiffel Tower two years ago with a different partner.

A Mike McCarthy was reported to have jumped from the tower in Paris on April 18, 1984, with a woman, Amanda Tucker. They shared a single steerable parachute and landed safely on the grass 905 feet below.

McCarthy and Boyd made the leap from the Empire State Building about 11:10 a.m., using special parachutes that gave them forward motion so they could avoid the building’s setbacks.

Police Officers Michael Plante and William O’Brian said they were driving along Fifth Avenue when they spotted the parachutes floating to earth in front of them. ″You don’t really see that every day,″ O’Brian said.

Plante said the parachutes ″just looked so nice coming down onto Fifth Avenue. ... Just floating things from the sky, that’s all. Nice.″

Plante said McCarthy at first told the officers he was ″filming for a James Bond movie,″ but was unable to come up with a permit.

″I almost got away with it,″ McCarthy said.

Boyd, who was not arrested, said his only lament was that they left their coats on top of the building. ″Mine was a raincoat, and I can’t afford another,″ he said wistfully. ″I’m hoping for good weather.″

McCarthy spoke to reporters at the Midtown South police precinct, where he was booked on charges of reckless endangerment, putting on an exhibition without a permit and unlawful parachuting.

He was issued a summons returnable May 15.

The Sygma Photo News agency, which was approached by the two chutists the day of the jump, took photographs and videotape of the stunt. The Associated Press bought a series of four black-and-white photos for $5,000, according to Deputy Newsphoto Editor George Mikulec.

Sygma also said it sold a color photograph to Long Island-based Newsday, and videotape to ABC. Sygma news editor J.P. Pappis would not comment on the price paid by any of the news organizations. A call to ABC was not immediately returned. Officials at Newsday said the photo editor was out of the office and not available to comment.

Boyd said he and McCarthy were not paid by Sygma, and were mainly interested in seeing that good photographs were taken of their exploit for their families and friends in Great Britain to see.