Man's plunge from chopper deemed suicide

Another helicopter tour company had refused to take Gregory McFadden up the previous day. His brother says he had health problems.

November 06, 2013|By Emily Foxhall and Jill Cowan | By Emily Foxhall and Jill Cowan
  • Greg McFadden
Greg McFadden (Courtesy Bradley…)

A family member on Wednesday described the man who authorities said jumped from a helicopter mid-flight as a smart and very private person who suffered from health problems near the end of his life.

Officials have said they are treating the Tuesday death of Gregory McFadden, 61, as a suicide.

McFadden suffered for many years from a medical problem that made it hard for him to sleep well or eat properly, said one of McFadden's three brothers, Bradley, a West Covina lawyer and the city's former mayor with whom he lived for five years.

A flap in his esophagus did not function properly, and the issue remained unsolved at the time of his death because he could not find a way to get the necessary treatment using his Social Security benefits, his brother said.

"He had a medical problem that people didn't understand. They didn't think it was serious because it was very rare," said Bradley, who could not recall the specific diagnosis. "I think the lesson learned here is that we need to pay attention to the people who are seriously ill."


At 5 foot 11 inches, McFadden weighed about 125 pounds when he moved from his brother's home in 2011, his brother estimated. Property records indicate only that he maintained a post office box in his hometown of West Covina, but his brother believed him to be renting a room in Orange County, where he used to enjoy surfing.

McFadden, whom his brother described as very smart with a mathematical mind and a private person who was not very sociable, tried to write movie scripts after he graduated from USC. None sold, and he went on to hold a series of different jobs like being a travel agent or a teller at a hotel.

At the time of his death, his brother believed him to be unemployed, although the pair had not spoken in two years.

"All I can say is that he was a good guy," he said. "He was trying to get well and he couldn't."

Ric Webb and Patti Taylor, co-owners of OC Helicopters, said they encountered a man named Gregory McFadden the day before his death, and that he seemed "off."

McFadden, they said, had tried to book a 10-minute tour for noon Monday. He would be bringing one or two friends, he told Taylor.

When he arrived alone at the company's office near John Wayne Airport hours early for his flight, however, Webb said he got the sense that something was amiss.

"He never raised his voice — he was calm," Webb said. "But he just wasn't there."

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