A U.S. Marine was killed over the weekend in a skydiving accident during a trip to Australia his wife won on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Gunnery Sgt. Brandon McGraw, 33, of North Carolina, was pronounced dead at the scene where emergency services found him after complications during the jump led to a crash landing, according to the Euroa Police Department.
His wife, Cherilyn, made a successful tandem jump from the same plane operated by Skydive Euroa, a skydiving and parachuting school in Victoria, Australia.
Cherilyn jumped first and landed safely, but something went awry during Brandon's descent, according to E! News.
Police are investigating what may have caused the accident, Euroa Senior Constable Kendra Jackson said in a statement.
Ian Matthews, an employee at Skydive Euroa told the Jacksonville Daily News that the Marine was an experienced skydiver with more than “a few jumps under his belt.” According to Matthews, the beginning of McGraw’s jump went smoothly but then, “he suddenly began turning his parachute dramatically to the left and right and eventually crashed into the ground.”
Cherilyn McGraw shared pictures of the couple’s flight on her Facebook page and wrote, “My hero. My angel. These are truly such symbolic photos. He was happy and doing what he loved … I love you more than anything in the world, honey. You are the most amazing man.”
"He went the way he would have wanted to," echoed Suzanne Bonnette, a neighbor in North Carolina. "Even though he was happy doing what he did, our loss is terrible in this neighborhood," Bonnette told NBC affiliate WITN.
"It is with a heavy heart that MARSOC announces the passing of one of our Marines," said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Barry J. Morris in a statement. "He was a consummate professional, who upheld our warrior ethos each and every day. Our heartfelt condolences, thoughts and prayers are with his family as they mourn the loss of their loved one."
McGraw served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was decorated with over 20 medals and ribbons during his time in the service, according to Marine Corps officials.
His wife won the Australian getaway in January 2013 during a contest called, “Stuff Your Down Under Pants” on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, according to WITN.
Ellen DeGeneres said in a statement, "I've been speaking with Cherilyn. And my staff has been in touch with her as well. She's asked us to help keep this private as she tries to deal with this unimaginable tragedy. I hope everyone respects that."
Skydive Euroa was established in 1983, according to its website. The site says the company “has the best safety record in Victoria delivering hundreds of thousands of jumps since the day we began.” Skydive Euroa did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
First published December 19 2013, 12:34 PM