Helicopter Suicide: Passenger Leaps To Death

Sky News

A man has died after plunging 750ft into the sea from a hired helicopter in an apparent planned suicide.

Passenger Gregory McFadden jumped to his death during a 30-minute tour of the coastline in Orange County, California.

Horrified witnesses watched as Mr McFadden fell into the sea near Balboa Pier at Newport Beach before lifeguards pulled him from the water and tried in vain to resuscitate him. 

Helicopter pilot Chuck Street told how his son Corbin, 25, desperately tried to stop his passenger from leaping to his death.

He told KCAL9: "During the flight he kept asking to go higher and higher ... 'can you fly right here along the shore?'

"My son was starting to get suspicious. When they got towards the Balboa Pier, he started to take his seatbelt off and he started to open the door.

"My son said, 'what are you doing, what are you doing?'

Mr Street said Corbin reached out and tried to grab his passenger, while continuing to fly the aircraft.

He said: "The guy started to kinda struggle. The aircraft kinda pitched up. My son had his hand on his shirt, his shirt ripped. And then the guy just went out the door."

A Huntington Beach police helicopter found the victim in the water and directed lifeguards and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol personnel to the scene.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that the passenger opened the helicopter door and jumped.

Mr Street said police found a suicide note on Mr McFadden, who was confirmed dead in hospital.

James Politano was among dozens of people who saw what happened.

He said: "I saw the door open. I thought it was a bird. Halfway from the helicopter, the legs opened. (I thought), 'Oh, it's a human being!' 

Mr McFadden’s brother told KCAL9 by phone that his brother was a loner who struggled with mental illness, a severe throat disease and depression. 

The helicopter, which was ordered to land at John Wayne Airport after the incident, was registered to Emerald City Aircraft Leasing Inc. in Port Orchard, Wash.

The death is being investigated as a possible suicide.

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