Parachutist Death Accidental, Says Sheriff
LOUISBURG, N.C. (AP) _ An experienced parachutist filmed his own two-mile death plunge after he fell from an airplane while carrying a video camera but apparently without realizing he had no parachute, investigators said Tuesday.
Officials declared the death Saturday of Ivan Lester McGuire, 35, of Durham, an accident.
Franklin County sheriff’s Capt. Ralph Brown said there was no foul play and no indication of suicide, although ″a man who has jumped 800 times ought to remember his parachute.″
The videotape shows McGuire leaving the plane, apparently without problems, Brown said. Other parachutists then jump and free fall, but disappear when they pop their parachutes and McGuire plunges on toward the ground at 150 mph.
McGuire, who was carrying a video camera mounted on his helmet, was filming a student and an instructor at Franklin County Sports Parachute Center about 20 miles from Raleigh.
The plane’s pilot, Mark Luman, couldn’t be found for comment and had no telephone listing. Brown said the pilot ″wasn’t in any position to see what happened in the back of the plane.″
There was no answer Tuesday at the parachute center. Nancy Fayard, wife of club owner Paul Fayard - who was the instructor on McGuire’s last jump, was quoted in Tuesday’s Raleigh News and Observer as saying: ″No one was aware that he got on the plane without a parachute. Of course no one knew or they would have stopped him.″
The videotape showed the divers making preparations around the plane’s door; then the camera went out with McGuire.
With the camera aimed up toward the plane, the tape then shows the instructor and the student jump and freefall somewhat above McGuire.
The jump appeared to be proceeding normally until the instructor and student opened their parachutes and receded rapidly from view as McGuire hurtled below them.
″It kind of appears he reached for his parachute and didn’t have one,″ Brown said. ″But the release for his (McGuire’s) parachute is on his right hip, and when that right hand goes down, the left hand comes forward and it comes into camera view.″
After several seconds of jerky motion, the tape shows the ground approaching. ″Then the pictures get to moving real fast because he’s approaching the ground at 150 mph,″ Brown said.
McGuire’s body was found in woods about 1 1/2 miles from the airfield. Footage of the final stage of the plunge was destroyed on impact and what tape remained had to be spliced in places, officials said.
Brown said blood samples will show whether McGuire had alcohol or drugs in his system and test results should be ready in about a week.
Although an expert jumper, McGuire could have forgotten to put on his parachute because of fatigue or preoccupation with his video equipment, Mrs. Fayard was quoted as saying.
A Federal Aviation Administration investigator said Monday he was checking to see if the pilot knew whether McGuire was wearing a parachute when he entered the airplane, as FAA regulations require.
Sheriff Arthur Johnson said Tuesday the investigation showed the pilot thought McGuire was wearing a parachute. But Walter L. Riggsbee, the FAA investigator, said the video equipment may have been mistaken for a parachute.