ATLANTA — After turning 18 in May, Jeanna Renee Triplicata had three items on her bucket list. She wanted a nose ring. A small tattoo to honor her beloved grandfather. And she wanted to skydive.
"Jeanna wasn't scared a bit," her father, Joey Triplicata, said Monday. "She had wanted to do this, for whatever reason."
Her goal was to scratch off every item on the list before the start of her freshman year at the University of North Georgia in August. On Sunday, Jeanna decided to tackle one of them. She and her grandmother planned to skydive.
Jeanna's parents, younger brother and sister and a family friend went along to watch. Her grandmother landed in view of the family. But something went horribly wrong with Jeanna's parachute, and both she and her instructor landed in an Upson County, Georgia, field and were killed.
"It was the worst day of our lives," Triplicata told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It doesn't even seem real. We're going to miss her every day for the rest of our lives."
Off in the distance, he said the family saw a parachute spinning out of control. They weren't certain it was Jeanna, and they didn't see the landing.
Some Skydive Atlanta employees told the family they would go get Jeanna. But when they returned to the family without the teenager, Triplicata said he decided to drive to the field himself.
"We weren't thinking the worst at that point," he said.
But they were soon greeted by a deputy with a heartbreaking message.
"It doesn't look good," Triplicata heard him say.
Later, Upson County Sheriff Dan Kilgore gave the family the news. Jeanna hadn't survived. Her instructor, Nick Esposito, 35, had also been killed.
Deputies were called to the field near the Thomaston-Upson County Airport around 12:45 p.m., Kilgore said.
Esposito, an experienced skydiver, was conducting a tandem jump with Triplicata, and the two were attached to a parachute rig, according to Kilgore.
"Upon exiting the aircraft, the primary parachute failed to open properly and went into a spin," he said in an emailed statement. "The emergency parachute did not deploy until extremely low altitude and did not fully open."
On Monday, Skydive Atlanta said the company is working with local investigators and the FAA to determine what happened.
"Our community is devastated for both our team member and the student and their respective families," Skydive Atlanta owner Trey Holladay said in an emailed statement. "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."
Triplicata was a recent graduate of Northgate High School in Newnan near Atlanta, where she was a member of the color guard for four years. She had a job she enjoyed at a local pizzeria, and later this week, Jeanna planned to get her nose pierced with her best friend.
During a visit to the University of North Georgia, Jeanna fell in love with the campus. She had already been in touch with her roommates and planned to study education, her father said.
"She was just starting her life," Triplicata said. "She was going to be a great teacher, I don't have any doubt about that. Parents can't take all the credit or all the blame for how their child does in life. But I'm extremely proud to be Jeanna's father. My children have been my life's greatest achievement up to this point."
In addition to her parents and grandmother, Jeanna is survived by a 15-year-old brother, 9-year-old sister and numerous other relatives and friends. A GoFundMe page was created to assist the family.
"While there is nothing that we can do to bring back this sweet soul nor replace her spirit, we are all speechless and looking for a way to support the Triplicata family," the fundraiser organizer posted.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is conducting the autopsies. Funeral arrangements were pending.
A videographer also made the jump with Jeanna and Esposito but was not injured, Triplicata said. When the investigation is completed, Triplicata will be able to see the video of his daughter's final few moments.
"I'm hoping and praying that she was just having the time of her life," he said.
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