A New Hampshire skydiving instructor committed suicide by intentionally undoing his harness during a tandem skydive jump, according to police.
41-year-old Brett Bickford was in the middle of a skydive with a student on September 27th when he became separated and plummeted to his death, as reported by The Eagle-Tribune.
The incident happened in Maine, where Bickford had been working as an instructor with Skydive New England for more than a decade. Just a day after the horrifying incident, Bickford’s body was discovered 750 feet southwest of the Lebanon Airport runway, as reported by The Tribune.
Following his death, police have been completing a two-month-long investigation in hopes of determining how the harness on such an experienced instructor would mysteriously loosen during the dive. Following careful investigation, skydiving experts have concluded it would be nearly impossible for Bickford’s death to have been accidental, as no instructor at his level would make such a mistake, as Spokesman for the Main Department of Public Safety Steve McCausland explained to The Press Herald.
The State Medical Examiner’s Office has also ruled Bickford’s death a suicide.
According to Skydive St Andrews, tandem jumps are usually performed with the student and the instructor in separate harnesses, as the instructor wears the parachute and guides the jump. In this situation, it appears Bickford attached the parachute to the student instead.
As explained in his obituary, Bickford was not only a skydiving instructor, but he also held a private pilot’s license and a drone license. A member of the US Parachute Association and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Bickford would have celebrated his 42nd birthday on October 26th.
“I’m thankful for being able to grow up with him and to have such an amazing person to look up to and just watch how he lived life. He amazed me at everything he did and was always great at anything he felt was worth his time,” His brother Jason Bickford wrote on Facebook in honor of his sibling. “He was the most unique person I have ever known, one who made choice because it was what he wanted, never because it was what someone else wanted or expected and I will envy that part of Brett for the rest of my life. You are missed every day and will be loved forever.”
Bickford’s student was unharmed in the incident.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).