Skydiving Instructor Deliberately Loosened Harness in Midair Suicide, Officials Say

Skydiving
A stock image of two skydivers in the air. Getty

A skydiving instructor who was killed after plummeting a mile to the ground actually took his own life, according to police

The medical examiner concluded that 41-year-old Brett Bickford, of Rochester, New Hampshire, deliberately loosened his harness in midair before he died earlier this fall.

Bickford had separated from a student whom he had jumped with on Sept. 27. The student landed safely with a parachute but Bickford, who had been an instructor at Skydive New England in Lebanon, Maine, for a decade, did not. 

"No experienced skydiver would loosen a parachute harness by mistake," Maine State Police said in a statement. "It was an intentional act."

The type of jump that Bickford and the student performed was known as a tandem jump, in which the pupil and the professional are in separate harnesses that are attached, with the experienced diver secured behind the learner. The instructor wears the parachute and its deployment during free-fall and landings. They also control the whole jump from start to finish. 

Bickford’s body was found the day after the jump just 750 feet from a Lebanon Airport runway by a team of game wardens, a state trooper and two members of a search-and-rescue team.

Bickford did not leave a note behind, according to authorities. 

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