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Journal Tribune
Posted
Updated October 5, 2018
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Investigators still looking for answers in ‘complex’ case of skydiver who fell to his death

Members of the Maine Warden Service head out as the search for the body of a missing skydiver continues at Skydive New England. Brett Bickford, 41, of Rochester, N.H., a skydive instructor, became detached from his partner during a tandem jump from an airplane Thursday afternoon. JILL BRADY/Portland Press Herald

Investigators say it will take several more weeks to investigate the death of a skydiving instructor in Lebanon because of the complexity of the case.

Maine State Police, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are all working to determine how skydiving instructor Brett Bickford fell a mile to his death during a tandem jump Sept. 27.

“It is going to take a considerable amount of time because of the complexity of the case,” Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Thursday.

McCausland said experts will be brought in to help investigators work through the complexities of the case. Investigators are trying to determine how Bickford became separated from a student skydiver, who landed safely after deploying the parachute during a jump around 2 p.m. last Thursday. The student skydiver has not been identified.

Bickford, 41, of Rochester, New Hampshire, was part of a tandem skydive that originated from Skydive New England in Lebanon. His body was found Friday about 750 feet southwest of the Lebanon Airport runway by a team of game wardens, a Maine State Police trooper and two members of a search-and-rescue team.

Officials said last week that tandem jumps typically are made with the student and instructor in separate harnesses that are attached, with the instructor secured behind the student. The instructor wears the parachute and controls its deployment during free-fall and landings. Whatever occurred that led to the student and Bickford becoming separated happened after the parachute was deployed, according to investigators.

Bickford worked as an instructor at Skydive New England for 10 years. He had a pilot’s license, drone license and was designing and building drones, according to his obituary. He was a member of the U.S. Parachute Association and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

“Brett was one amazing smart young man,” his obituary said. “Those who knew Brett know he had a free spirit of life to live one day at a time. Brett’s smile and laughter live on in all who knew him.”

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