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Passenger jumped from tour helicopter, fell 500 feet to his death

Craigslist, Inc.Federal Aviation Administration

A passenger in a helicopter flying over the Newport Beach shoreline Tuesday  opened the door and jumped out, falling about 500 feet to the ocean, authorities said.

The man later died at a local hospital.

Newport Beach police are investigating the 60-year-old man’s death as a possible suicide. The Federal Aviation Administration is also reviewing the incident.

The man had apparently booked a 30-minute coastal tour for two people but showed up alone, said Chuck Street, a longtime helicopter pilot whose son was flying the chopper. The man paid $310 in advance for the flight.

At about 12:45 p.m., Street’s son, Corbin, took off with his passenger from Fullerton Airport, planning to follow a typical path toward Irvine, over Pelican Hill and north along the coast, Street said.

About 15 minutes later, dispatchers received reports that someone had fallen from a helicopter near the Balboa Pier, said Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella.

Street said he has yet to speak with his son at length but that police led him to believe that a struggle had occurred in which his son tried to restrain the passenger as he tried to jump out the door.

A police helicopter spotted the man in the water about 15 yards from the sand, officials said.

Lifeguard John Moore, who helped pull the man's body from the water, said the man was unconscious when rescuers reached him.

Street — who updated local radio listeners with traffic reports for more than 25 years — owns Cardinal Air Services, which offered the tour.

He said the incident shocked him.

“It’s the last thing I ever thought would happen to my son,” Street said.

Fullerton Municipal Airport Manager Brendan O’Reilly said that the helicopter, a Robinson Helicopter R44, was based at the airport.

Its operators, he said, had “an excellent safety record.”

Companies that offer chartered scenic tours are “really common,” O’Reilly said, adding that several such operations fly out of Fullerton, the last general aviation airport in Orange County.

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jill.cowan@latimes.com

emily.foxhall@latimes.com

 

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