Rescuers on the scene of a search in late September for a skydiving instructor who became detached from a client during a tandem jump. The instructor was later found dead and police say they believe it was a suicide. Credit: CBS 13

Investigators believe a man who fell to his death after becoming detached during a tandem skydiving jump in Lebanon two months ago died by suicide.

Brett BIckford, 41, of Rochester, New Hampshire, was the instructor strapped to a client on a two-person jump for Skydive New England on Sept. 27 when he was reportedly separated from the second person about a mile above ground.

“State police interviews with other skydivers and industry officials concluded that no experienced skydiver would loosen a parachute harness by mistake,” said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. “Investigators concluded that Bickford loosened his harness in midair and it was an intentional act.”

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It took search crews nearly 28 hours to locate Bickford’s body after he did not land with his client, who was not hurt, according to police. Bickford was ultimately found about 750 feet southwest of the Lebanon airstrip, according to police at the time.

The case perplexed industry officials, including the head of the U.S. Parachute Association, who said in the days after the death that it was “ unheard of” for an instructor to come undone from a tandem harness system.

To reach a suicide prevention hotline, call 888-568-1112 or 800-273-TALK (8255), or visit

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.