Searchers late Friday afternoon found the body of skydiving instructor who somehow became detached from his partner during a tandem jump the day before.

Brett Bickford, 41, of Rochester, New Hampshire, was part of a tandem skydiving jump that originated from Skydive New England in Lebanon. His body was found about 750 feet southwest of the Lebanon Airport runway about 5:30 p.m. Friday by a team of four game wardens, a Maine State Police trooper and two members of a search-and-rescue team.

Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the Maine Warden Service, said the team found Bickford’s body while completing one of the last grid searches of the day.

The investigation is continuing into what happened when Bickford deployed the parachute during the jump at 2 p.m. Thursday. When the student skydiver returned to earth, he was alone.

MacDonald said that typically, tandem skydiving jumps are performed with the student and instructor in separate harnesses that are attached together, with the instructor secured behind the student.

The instructor wears the parachute and controls its deployment during free-fall and landings, MacDonald said. Whatever occurred that led to the student and Bickford becoming separated happened after the parachute was deployed, MacDonald said.

More than 50 people and a dozen search dogs looked for Bickford on Friday in a heavily wooded area of Lebanon next to the Lebanon Airport and the Skydive New England offices, MacDonald said earlier Friday. He said licensed drone operators, aircraft and searchers on ATVs also assisted in the search.

Ryan Scutt, a skydiving instructor in Bennington, Vermont, said he was baffled by the description of what happened.

“I’ve never once heard of anything like this happening,” said Scutt, who was contacted by the Portland Press Herald for insights on the skydiving incident.

Scutt said skydiving instructors and students both wear harnesses on sky-dives, with the main parachute and a backup in the harness attached to the instructor. The instructor and student are typically connected by four metal buckles that would be almost impossible to become detached accidentally, he said.

“The idea of the instructor not being in the harness anymore or falling out is essentially unheard of,” he said, and the pair “can’t become disconnected once they are connected.”

People search for the body of a missing skydiver at Skydive New England in Lebanon on Thursday. Brett Bickford, 41, of Rochester, N.H., a skydive instructor, became detached from his partner during a tandem jump from an airplane. His body was found late Friday afternoon about 750 feet southwest of Lebanon Airport. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald)

Maine Warden Service Cpl. John MacDonald speaks to news media Thursday afternoon while searchers look for a missing skydiver at Skydive New England in Lebanon. The body of Brett Bickford, 41, of Rochester, New Hampshire, was found late Friday afternoon about 750 feet southwest of Lebanon Airport. Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald)


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