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Two Parachute Off U.S. Steel Building

May 19, 1986

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Two parachutists leaped off the U.S. Steel Building and floated 841 feet down to a waiting getaway car minutes before the start of Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon, authorities said.

Both skydivers were whisked away from an apparent pre-arranged 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 skydivers to the top of the 64-story triangular building was arrested after he captured the stunt on videotape.

Thomas Zukowski, 45, of Gibsonia was charged with criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct, said Patrolman David McCulloch.

Zukowski identified the parachutists as Donald Sulkowski, 31, and Alan Danko, 37, of Pittsburgh, and said in a telephone interview that the stunt was done in response to a similar feat April 24 when two Britons parachuted off the Empire State Building in New York City.

The U.S. Steel Building, which opened in 1970, is the tallest skyscraper between New York City and Chicago.

″The two British jumpers used static lines. These guys felt they could jump off U.S. Steel without static lines and still maintain safety,″ Zukowski said.

A static line is an attached cord that automatically opens the chute. Without such a line, the jumper must open the parachute manually.

″We wanted to show our British cousins we could make a free fall from a building, without a static line,″ Danko said in a telephone interview, adding that he and Sulkowski had made more than 3,000 jumps and carefully planned the event to make it safe.

″We had 10 people on the ground to keep our landing zone clear. We knew what we were doing. Safety was the ultimate thing,″ Danko said.

″Everything just fell into place. Weather conditions were perfect. The fact that today was the marathon made it a little bit easier for us. Actually, I never thought we’d get past the ground floor,″ Zukowski said.

The three entered the downtown building about 10 a.m. and made their way to the roof by telling security guards they were with television station KDKA and planned to film the 26.2-mile race, McCulloch said.

″Zukowski was holding a mini-cam, similar to the cameras that television stations use,″ McCulloch said.

″As soon as they got to the roof, Zukowski set up his equipment and the two men waved to the others on the roof and jumped, one at a time,″ the officer said.

Zukowski was detained after security personnel determined he was not with the television station.

″I’ve got an excellent video,″ said Zukowski.

The two jumpers, equipped with parachutes that can be steered, glided over to a parking lot where they escaped in a black car, police said.

McCulloch said police probably would not vigorously pursue the jumpers.

″I don’t think anybody really cares,″ he said. ″I think it’s kind of neat.″

Zukowski was freed on $200 cash bond and is to appear for a preliminary hearing May 27.

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