A 61-year-old California man on a 30-minute helicopter sightseeing tour of the Southern California coast opened the chopper door near Newport Beach and jumped out, plunging 500 feet. Authorities have been investigating the jump as a suicide.
“A Huntington Beach Police Department helicopter initiated a search for the passenger, which helped direct Newport Beach lifeguards and Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol personnel to his location in the ocean,” Newport Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella told ABCNews.com.
Authorities said that lifeguards brought the man, Gregory McFadden of West Covina, to shore and initiated lifesaving measures.
“Newport Beach Fire Department medics transported the man, who was in critical condition, to a local hospital, where he succumbed to the injuries sustained as a result of his fall,” said Manzella. McFadden was pronounced dead at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, said the Orange County Coroner’s Office.
Fullerton Municipal Airport Manager Brendan O’Reilly said that the helicopter was a Robinson Helicopter R44 and was stationed at the airport when it took off with McFadden and pilot Corbin Street, of Orange, Calif.
“Corbin is an excellent operator and a son of a great veteran pilot,” said O’Reilly. ” He and his father, Chuck, have an excellent safety record. They have a great reputation, and they are an excellent asset to our facility. … This incident was just a freak accident.”
O’Reilly told ABCNews.com that Street was upset about what happened, and could not talk about it.
One of McFadden’s three younger brothers, Bradley, 58, told ABCNews.com that it could have been a combination of depression and “physical impediment” that might have prompted his brother to leap.
“Greg had a rare medical condition, which caused him severe reflux, kept him from sleeping every night. He was trying to get some kind of medical financial aid to cover for a surgery that would take care of the problem, but he couldn’t,” said his brother. “It must have been a result of years of physical impediment and pain and severe lack of sleep that might have contributed to this extreme situation,” he said. “He was a very smart man. … He was a good man, a very honest man who cared for people and loved animals.”
McFadden will be cremated, according to his brother, who said the family was planning a reunion in his memory over the holidays.