Say Well-Dressed Man Charters Plane, Jumps Out Door at 10,000
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ A man wearing a white dinner jacket hired a notary and two video cameramen to accompany him on a chartered flight, then opened the door at 10,000 feet and toppled from the plane, a witness said.
Police found a body Wednesday in the desert northeast of Las Vegas and said it was wearing a jacket like the man who jumped from the plane. Las Vegas Metro Homicide Sgt. Ted Rosen said there was ″some ribbon-looking stuff″ near the body, but ″not enough to be a parachute.″
Rosen said a car parked two or three miles away had two flashlights rigged to shine up into the air and ″we think this was the spot he was jumping to.″
″We are convinced he did this thing as a stunt,″ Lt. Paul Conner said today. ″From watching videotape of the incident we feel this guy was some type of an entertainer. He conducted himself that way. It’s our opinion it was some type of a publicity stunt.″
″I just couldn’t believe it was happening,″ said Charlotte Richards, the notary who was sitting next to the man. ″He just opened up the door on the right side of the plane and just fell out of the plane.″
Mrs. Richards said she patted the man on the back seconds before he jumped from the plane and was fairly certain he wasn’t wearing a parachute.
″It was just horrifying,″ she said, still trembling from Monday night’s experience. ″I just don’t know what to think. If he’s committed suicide, what a horrible thing to experience. If he did it as a hoax, he better not reappear around me.″
Mrs. Richards said her first thought was the man was a stuntman and would reappear. When he didn’t, she said, her friend tried to get the pilot to go down in the darkness and to look for him.
″The pilot just went straight to the airport and said not to talk to anybody or do anything until the FAA got there. They came and the police came. We were questioned until 4 in the morning.″
An employee at Hughes Executive Air Terminal, where the flight originated, confirmed that authorities were on the scene after the plane arrived.
″It’s not a hoax,″ said the employee who spoke only on condition that his name and specific title not be used. ″Whether or not the guy had a parachute or not, no one knows. The newer design ones are really flat. You could wear them under a jacket.″
He said no flight plan was necessary for a local scenic flight.
Mrs. Richards said the man, who identified himself as Dr. Joe Harmns, a 35- year-old physician from Germany, approached her in the wedding chapel she owns in Las Vegas last week, and asked for the services of a notary.
″I said I normally don’t do that, but then I got to thinking that maybe he wanted to do a wedding in the air since he had the photographers and everything,″ she said.
Mrs. Richards said she brought a friend. The two, along with the two cameramen and the pilot, filled the single-engine Cessna 210. Before departing, the man stood with a microphone in front of the plane and identified her, himself and the pilot before the camera.
″He had everyone sit in certain places,″ she recalled. ″We took off and he was looking out of the plane continously. Then he sat down and took off his watch and handed it to me. The next thing I know, he said ’Will you marry me?″
The wedding chapel owner said she laughed and patted the man on the back.
″It was real spooky,″ she said. ″After a moment he said ’I don’t know if I have enough time. He just sort of opened the door and fell out of the plane.″
The pilot of the National Executive Airlines plane could not be reached for comment, but the owner of another charter service, Bill Munnerlyn, said the man tried to rent one of his planes earlier.
″I knew there was something wrong so I didn’t rent the plane,″ said Munnerlyn, who said the man asked him to remove a door from the plane. ″I thought he was going to throw the ladies out.″
Munnerlyn, who said he was questioned Tuesday by authorities, said the man was wearing a white sports jacket with no parachute visible.
An assistant city editor at the Las Vegas Review-Journal said a man who identified himself as Dr. Joe Harmns called last week and asked for a reporter and photographer to accompany him on a flight. The man refused to give a reason for the request, and the editor turned him down.
Conner said the man also approached other Las Vegas media with similar requests.