LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man who died after jumping from a helicopter just off the
Greg McFadden, 61, was the only passenger in the tour helicopter flying above the ocean Tuesday when he opened the door and jumped, authorities said. His drop into the water from as high as 1,000 feet was seen by horrified spectators at Balboa Pier in
Police said they were investigating the death as a suicide.
Brad McFadden told The Associated Press that his brother had an esophageal disorder that gave him acid reflux and caused him to choke when he went to bed. As a result, Greg McFadden was only able to get a few hours of sleep every night.
He was hoping to get surgery to fix the problem, but it kept getting delayed because he was on Medicare and only a few doctors do the surgery, his brother said.
"It was a very serious problem with him and it may have gotten to a point where it was unbearable," said Brad McFadden, an attorney and former mayor of
Greg McFadden hired the helicopter pilot to take a 30-minute scenic tour of the
In the air over a lake, McFadden inquired about the altitude of the helicopter and later asked if it could go higher.
Corbin Street caught his shirt sleeve as McFadden's flailing hand hit a control stick that made the helicopter pitch upward, Street told his father.
McFadden jumped as the pilot tried to regain control of the aircraft.
Brad McFadden said he couldn't explain why his brother decided to create a spectacle above the popular pier.
"If you are contemplating suicide, which is the best way?" he said. "It's terrible but I guess he was being very creative."
McFadden booked the tour Tuesday morning after another tour operator refused to fly him.
Ric Webb, owner of OC Helicopters, said that McFadden on Sunday had booked a Monday tour for two, but the helicopter operator was wary when McFadden arrived alone and hours early, wearing shorts and flip-flops, and with a ripped plastic grocery bag.
"Something was just off about him - I thought it was chemical," Webb told the
Webb said he talked with McFadden for several hours. The man kept urging him to fly.
"He said, 'If we don't (fly) today, I'll never be able to come back here again,'" Webb said.
McFadden also asked him to fly at 8,000 feet, Webb said.
Webb said he finally called the Sheriff's Department and deputies escorted McFadden out of his business area at
"He didn't understand why we weren't going to fly," Web said. "I finally just had to tell him it was a mechanical issue."
Greg McFadden was one of four brothers and the son of a former
He had worked as a hotel desk clerk and travel agent but was unemployed for the past decade, collecting Social Security benefits. He wasn't married and had no children.
Brad McFadden described his older brother as a loner who was whip-smart when it came to math. The last time he saw his sibling was two years ago, when Greg McFadden moved out of his house. One of the other McFadden brothers had spoken to Greg a couple of months ago, and he talked about his health condition, Brad McFadden said.
"He was a very good man," he said. "He cared for people, loved animals and was a down-to-earth guy."
"He will never look at a passenger the same again because this will be in the back his mind," Street said.
PHOTO CREDIT: CA DMV