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Sky diver dies in Murrieta after record-setting jump

November 12, 2009 |  5:45 pm

Sky diver Stephen Millard Harrington was making his last jump of the day. It was meant to be a relaxing drop that would cap a record-setting day in the skies above Riverside County.

But Harrington apparently hit the tail of a twin-engine plane as he jumped out the door and plunged several thousand feet to his death Wednesday in Murrieta, according to authorities and fellow parachutists.

The 40-year-old Boston resident was pronounced dead at 5:05 p.m., shortly after he crashed into a residential lot in the 38000 block of Calle de Lobo.

Several hours earlier, Harrington and 67 other parachutists had jumped from an altitude of about 12,500 feet in their specialized wing suits. The jumpsuits have panels attached under the arms and between the legs, creating an airfoil that allows sky divers to fly patterns before opening their parachutes.

Harrington and the others flew in an arrowhead formation, setting a new U.S. record for the most wing-suit divers in a single jump, according to Raise the Sky, a Massachusetts-based group that sponsored the event to raise for money for charity.

"It was an awesome jump," said John Hamilton, drop-zone owner for Skydive Elsinore, who attended the event. "They were all together."

Several hours later, after the charity event had ended, Harrington made his fatal jump, apparently hitting the plane's tail, Hamilton said.

"They were going to make a fun jump," he said. "It was a freak accident."

—Robert J. Lopez