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NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A man plunged hundreds of feet to his death Tuesday from a helicopter he hired to take a scenic tour of the Southern California coast, and investigators are trying to determine whether he committed suicide, authorities and the pilot's father said.
The man was the only passenger in a helicopter flying about 500 feet above the ocean in the early afternoon when he opened the door, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Gregory McFadden, 61, of West Covina fell into the water near the Balboa Pier in Orange County and was taken to shore by lifeguards. Despite lifesaving efforts, he died at a hospital from injuries he received in the fall, Newport Beach police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said.
Chuck Street, a longtime helicopter pilot and local traffic reporter, told the Los Angeles Times that his son, Corbin, was flying the helicopter. He said the man apparently booked a 30-minute tour for two people but showed up alone.
Street told KCAL-TV that his son grew suspicious when McFadden kept asking him to fly higher and higher. When the helicopter neared the pier, McFadden took his seat belt off and began to open the door. Street said his son grabbed McFadden.
"The guy started to struggle, the aircraft kind of pitched up … my son had his hand on his shirt, his shirt ripped and the guy just went out the door," Street said.
"He could have taken my son with him," he added.