See the update at the end of this post with the I.D. of the man who jumped from the helicopter.
ORIGINAL POST, NOV. 5, 3:48 P.M.: A 60-year-old man may have committed suicide by helicopter this afternoon near the Balboa Pier, according to police.
The passenger either fell or jumped out of the helicopter when it was about 300 feet in the air before splashing down in the ocean, according to Jennifer Manzella, the Newport agency's spokeswoman.
The Huntington Beach Police Department helicopter, which would help in the search for the unidentified man, notified the Newport Beach Police Communications Center that a man fell out of a whirlybird about 1 p.m.
The Surf City copter helped direct Newport Beach Lifeguards and Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol personnel to the man's location in the ocean, according to Manzella, who added that lifeguards brought him to shore and initiated lifesaving efforts.
He was taken in critical condition by Newport Beach Fire Department paramedics to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries, Manzella said. His identity is being withheld pending notification of family.
“The incident is being investigated as a possible suicide,” Manzella says in a statement.
UPDATE, NOV. 6, 2:34 P.M.: Gregory McFadden, 61, of West Covina, has been identified as the man who jumped to his death from a helicopter flying over the Balboa Pier area Tuesday afternoon, according to the county coroner.
Besides the coroner, Newport Beach Police and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident, which police have deemed a possible suicide.
“The only passenger on board opened the door and jumped out into the water” 500 feet above the Newport Beach shoreline, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor writes in an email.
McFadden booked a 30-minute coastal tour for two people with Cardinal Air Services, which is owned by longtime Southern California helicopter/traffic reporter “Commander” Chuck Street of KIIS-FM. But McFadden was alone when he showed up for the $310 flight he'd paid for in advance, reports KTLA/Channel 5 news.
The chopper, piloted by Street's son Corbin, took off with McFadden from Fullerton Airport, which later disclosed Cardinal Air Services has an excellent safety record. McFadden jumped out of the copter when it was 500 feet in the air, according to the FAA.
Street told the LA Times he understands there may have been a struggle between his son and McFadden before the passenger jumped out. He was plucked out of the water about 15 feet from the shore.
McFadden's brother has told reporters that the deceased, who was receiving Social Security and disability benefits, suffered from a debilitating medical condition he could not afford to treat.