LEBANON, Maine — Experts from the U.S. Parachute Association say that the death of a Maine skydiving instructor is the first of its kind.
“It’s not only a rare event, for the tandem instructor to depart the tandem pair, it’s unheard of. It’s never happened before to our knowledge, in our decades of using the tandem as a first-jump method,” Executive Director of USPA Ed Scott said.
Maine State Police say that last week 41-year-old Skydive New England instructor Brett Bickford died after he somehow detached from the parachute pack.
Scott says the most curious part of the incident is that Bickford was in the middle of a tandem jump, which they say includes a student skydiver attached to the front of the instructor.
“The main parachute is attached to that tandem instructor’s harness, which in turn is attached to the tandem students harness. So, it’s a fully enveloping body harness if you will. Again, a tandem instructor has never had a problem which caused them to fall away from both their student and gear,” Scott said.
Maine State Police say that the student skydiver is OK, and landed safely with the parachute Bickford and the student were attached to.
Scott says the USPA knows a lot about the tandem method and its application, since the organization helped invent the safety method for first-time skydivers decades ago.
“The U.S. Parachute Association is dedicated to finding more and more ways to keep people safe while they’re in the air …. We helped create the tandem method, and in the decades of it’s application, 10,000 experienced skydivers and about half a million people in the U.S. make their first jump through tandem skydiving every year,” Scott said.
Maine State Police say that the incident is still under investigation.
Skydive New England released a statement last week that explained that at approximately 2 p.m. Thursday, “a male student landed a parachute without his tandem instructor attached to him,” adding that the body of the instructor was found about three and a half hours later in a wooded area nearby.
“Skydive New England wishes to extend our sincerest condolences to Brett’s family, friends and members of the skydiving community,” the statement read, in part. “We would like to thank the Maine Game Wardens, Maine State Police, Rescue Departments, neighbors, all volunteers and family who assisted with the search.”
Scott says that the incident shouldn’t discourage people from skydiving, and that the USPA will be actively following the investigation.
“This is a true anomaly. Something happened, and when we learn what it is, we will know how to educate the skydiving community and all the tandem instructors who are out there,” Scott said.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.