What led to Brett Bickford a seasoned skydiving professional committing suicide during a joint tandem jump at Skydive New England?
An experienced skydiver who fell to his death during a tandem jump in Maine has been found to have intentionally loosened his harness in midair to commit suicide.
Brett Bickford, 41, of Rochester, New Hampshire, died on Sept. 27 after detaching himself a mile above the ground during a two-man jump at Skydive New England in Lebanon, where he’d worked as an instructor for the past decade, the Portland Press Herald reported.
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.
Following a two month probe, the state medical examiner determined 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 nypost. ‘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 landed safely during the jump despite Bickford’s actions, state police said.
A spokesman for the Maine State Police said Bickford — who was a member of the US Parachute Association — did not leave behind a suicide note.
Skydiving incidents statistically remote:
Nancy Koreen, director of sport promotion at the Virginia-based organization said 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 via the Portland Press.
Over the past decade, an average of one person died per 500,000 tandem jumps, Koreen said.
According to News Center Maine, Skydive New England has experienced several incidents over the past couple of years with skydivers getting injured and one person dying in 2002.
A spokesperson clarified that the incidents are small in comparison to the 20,000 skydives the company completes a season.
Yet to be necessarily understood is what motivated the experienced skydiver to kill himself midair- an instance that has replayed itself in other episodes across the US.