An experienced skydiver who fell to his death during a tandem jump in Maine intentionally loosened his harness in midair to commit suicide, state police said.
Brett Bickford, 41, of Rochester, New Hampshire, died on Sept. 27 after detaching himself about a mile above the ground during a two-man jump at Skydive New England in Lebanon, where he had worked as an instructor for the past decade, the Portland Press Herald reports.
Bickford’s body was found a day later some 750 feet away from the Lebanon Airport by teams from the Maine Association for Search and Rescue, the agency announced on Facebook.
The state’s medical examiner has concluded after a two-month probe that Bickford’s death was a suicide.
“State Police interviews with other skydivers and industry officials concluded that no experienced skydiver would loosen a parachute harness by mistake,” Maine State Police said in a statement obtained by The Post. “Bickford, an instructor at Skydive New England, was jumping with a second man at the time. Investigators concluded that Bickford loosened his harness in midair and it was an intentional act.”
The second jumper, who was not identified by authorities, landed safely during the jump despite Bickford’s actions, state police said.
Bickford’s relatives, as well as colleagues at his former skydiving facility, have been notified of the investigation’s final determination.
A spokesman for the Maine State Police told the Portland Press Herald that Bickford — who was a member of the US Parachute Association — did not leave behind a suicide note.
Nancy Koreen, director of sport promotion at the Virginia-based organization, told the newspaper that she was told by staffers that Bickford adjusted his leg straps and other securing harnesses after the tandem parachute opened seconds after jumping out of a plane.
“In this case, if his death was in fact a suicide, it appears he intentionally detached himself from the equipment,” Koreen told the newspaper late Monday.
Over the past decade, an average of one person died per 500,000 tandem jumps, Koreen said.
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