Most teenagers wouldn't ask their grandmother to go skydiving with them, but Jeanna Triplicata wasn't your average 18-year-old. Family was everything to the Georgia resident and she was excited to experience tandem skydiving with her grandmother, Renee Sands, last weekend.
But what was supposed to be a beautiful day turned into a tragedy when Triplicata's parachute malfunctioned.
After watching Sands take off with her partner, Triplicata and her Skydive Atlanta instructor followed closely behind. Their primary parachute didn't open properly and the emergency chute opened too late, Upson County Sheriff Dan Kilgore told NBC Atlanta affiliate 11Alive, citing a preliminary investigation. Both Triplicata and her instructor, Nick Esposito, 35, died at the scene.
Skydiving was supposed to be a way for the 18-year-old to celebrate graduating high school, and she brought her parents, 15-year-old brother, 9-year-old sister and best friend along for moral support.
"It was so terrible because they all had to experience this along with her mother and me. There was no way to shield them from it," her father, Joey Triplicata, told TODAY.
TODAY has reached out to the Upson County sheriff's office for additional information on the accident. Skydive Atlanta owner Trey Holladay offered the following statement: “Our community is devastated for both our team member and the student and their respective families. We are all stunned and truly at a loss for words as we are a close-knit family. We have spoken with the next of kin and all are asking for privacy while we process and grieve.”
Joey Triplicata, who described his daughter as family-oriented and kind, said the teen was set to attend the University of North Georgia in the fall and was a proud member of her high school's color guard.
"Anybody that came in contact with her really liked her. She didn't think she was the popular girl in school; she didn't want that. But we've had so many people reach out to us that barely knew her or only saw her at school that have nothing but positive things to say," he shared.
Jeanna Triplicata had a special bond with her family, especially with her father.
"One of the things I looked forward to with having kids was going to the movies and the most fun we had together was at the movies," he said. "For one of her birthdays a few years ago, we rented a projector to go outside and we invited a whole bunch of her friends over and watched 'My Girl.' The next night, we invited the whole neighborhood over to watch 'Jurassic Park.'"
The teen was also particularly close to her grandmother and would often have sleepovers at her house and watch the show "Grey's Anatomy."
Like many teens, Jeanna Triplicata was a huge fan of Harry Styles, and had even recently received a life-size cutout of the singer as a birthday gift. The family plans to bring the cutout to her funeral service this weekend in her honor.
Joey Triplicata said he hopes talking about his daughter's story raises awareness so an accident like hers will never happen again. He also has one other hope: "We still haven't seen the video of her free-falling, but we hope that she was having the best time before this all happened."