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Search Team Finds Body of N.H. Skydiving Instructor Lost in Tandem Jump

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Authorities in Maine on Friday found the body of a skydiving instructor who became separated from his student during a tandem jump.

Brett Bickford, 41, of Rochester, New Hampshire, and his student participated in a jump about 2 p.m. Thursday near Skydive New England in Lebanon, officials said. The student called police after he landed safely and couldn't find his instructor.

A search team found Bickford's body shortly before 5:30 p.m. Friday about 750 feet (228 meters) southwest of the Lebanon Airport runway, said Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the Maine Warden Service.

Bickford was found as the team was completing one of the few remaining grid searches for the day, MacDonald said. Authorities suspended Thursday's search around 9 p.m. and resumed Friday morning.

Investigators say Bickford and the student became separated about a mile above the ground, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said. Bickford didn't have a backup parachute, McCausland said.

Bickford and the student used the same parachute in the jump, which is typical of a tandem jump. Police weren't sure how the skydivers became separated.

Skydive New England closed Saturday. It posted on its Facebook page: "Our hearts are with Brett's family and the entire skydiving community during this difficult time."

The investigation to determine what caused the fatal skydiving accident is ongoing, MacDonald said.

The Maine State Police, Maine Warden Service and members from search and rescue squads were involved in the search for Bickford on Friday.

(This article was updated Friday night with additional information.)

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