Friends and colleagues remembered real estate executive David Winoker on Monday, just days after his tragic death in a skydiving accident at the age of 49.
“We’re all devastated right now,” David Simon, a long time friend of Mr. Winoker’s, told The Commercial Observer. “He was a person who never had an argument with anyone. Anyone who knew him knew what a kind and fair and thoughtful person he was. He was a star of a person.”
Mr. Winoker’s death was horribly ironic according to friends. In life he was known for his conservative and cautious approach, favoring to grow his family business Winoker Realty with a slow but steady approach.
Friends say that Mr. Winoker was skydiving as part of a friend’s 50th birthday celebration and that, in the days leading up to the jump, he was wracked with anxiety about participating in an activity that was so contrary to his careful nature.
Mr. Winoker’s concerns tragically proved to be justified. According to Platteskill police chief Joseph Ryan, whose department is leading the investigation into the accident, Mr. Winoker’s tandem partner in the jump, an instructor with skydiving outfit Skydive the Ranch named Aleksandr Chulsky of Brooklyn, became unconcious or incapacitated during the fall, possibly from the force of the parachute’s deployment. Though the chute properly opened, without Mr. Chulsky properly handling the controls, the pair, who were harnessed together, spun in a violent corkscrew.
“It appears the chute properly opened from both evidence on the ground and eyewitness accounts,” Chief Ryan told The Commercial Observer. “Without Mr. Chulsky controling the descent however they hit the ground with considerable force that was enough to kill.”
Friends remembered Mr. Winoker for the level of dedication he showed to his family a rare virtue in a business renowned for the party lifestyle many brokers lead. Mr. Simon, who worked as a broker for Mr. Winoker last year, recounted his focus on family. After Mr. Winoker had won a huge assignment for the company he declined an invitation from his new clients for a celebratory dinner.
“He said he couldn’t, he had to get home to his wife and children,” Mr. Simon said. “Everyone wanted to go out and party but that wasn’t the kind of guy David was. His wife Jillian was his best friend. She was his diamond. They complimented each other. And all he ever wanted to do after a day of work was get home to her and his kids.”
Martin Kravet, chief executive of the title company Royal Abstract, remembered Mr. Winoker similarly.
“In a business where so many peopel live on the edge of morality he stood for good values, he went to work and he went home,” Mr. Kravet said. “Everyone needs a friend like that and I think all of us are just shattered right now that he’s no longer in our lives.”
Mr. Winoker had made strides with his business since assuming control of the company after his father Sidney retired over a decade ago. Winoker Realty employed more than a dozen brokers and was known as one of the busiest leasing companies in the city’s bustling Garment District.
Though the kind of dealmaking the company did was not considered by many leasing executives as prestigious as the big deals that larger brokerage companies did in other areas of the city, Mr. Winoker understood his company’s strengths and humbly kept it focused on its expertise. He was not without ambition however. Last year, he won one of its largest leasing assignments to date, picking up the agency assignment for 1450 Broadway, a 400,000-square-foot office building just south of Times Square. The building immediately gave Winoker Realty to more prominence in the city’s brokerage business.
Chief Joseph Ryan said Mr. Winoker and Mr. Chulsky crash landed in an apple orchard in Ulster County and were discovered minutes later by crew members from Skydive the Ranch, who observed their descent and rush to the scene and performed CPR on the men, who were both unconscious and unresponsive. The pair soon after were rushed to a hospital but could not be revived. Both Mr. Winoker and Mr. Chulsky likely died instantly upon impact Chief Ryan said.
“Right now, it appears that it was a tragic accident,” he said.