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Fri, Apr 02, 2004

88-Year Old Man Commits Suicide By PT-17

Scuffles With Pilot, Then Jumps To His Death

It was a pleasure flight -- given to 88-year old Joseph Frost by his son, Robert, as a birthday present. The elder Frost seemed in good spirits as he climbed into Bill Allen's PT-17 (file photo of type, below). They chatted about the recent California forest fires and politics. And then, without warning, Frost took off his helmet and tried to jump out of the open-cockpit aircraft.

"He didn't give me any indications that this was going to happen," said Allen, who said he did all he could to prevent Frost from going through with his intended suicide.

But about a half-mile from Gillespie Field in El Cajon (CA), Frost climbed out of his seat, bent on leaping to his death. Allen says he fought with Frost while, at the same time, fighting to control the aircraft.

"I pulled back on the stick," Allen said, hoping to use positive Gs to push Frost back into the front seat of the Stearman PT-17. "I tried to get him over the field. I held him as long as I could. He damn near took my arm with him."

Finally, faced with losing his passenger or losing his aircraft -- and perhaps his own life -- Allen says he let go. Frost fell to his death, his body severed on the power lines below. His remains crashed through the roof of an enclosed patio at an apartment complex.

Frost reportedly suffered from a brain tumor that was robbing him of his sight. But there was no indication that he was suicidal, according to family and friends.

"I think that was Dad's idea, to go out in a flash of glory," said son Robert.

FAA Preliminary Accident Report

IDENTIFICATION
  Regis#: 262V        Make/Model: A74N      Description: BOEING STEARMAN PT17
  Date: 03/29/2004     Time: 0043
  Event Type: Accident   Highest Injury: Fatal     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: None
LOCATION
  City: SAN DIEGO                   State: CA   Country: US

DESCRIPTION
 ACFT ON APPROACH TO GILLESPIE FIELD RUNWAY 27L, THE PASSENGER JUMPED OUT OF THE ACFT FATALLY INJURING HIMSELF, NO ACFT DAMAGE, NO GROUND INJURIES, OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES ARE UNKNOWN, SAN DIEGO, CA

INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   1
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:   
                 # Pass:    1     Fat:   1     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:   
                 # Grnd:           Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:   
WEATHER: UNK                                                                        
OTHER DATA
  Activity: Pleasure      Phase: Approach      Operation: General Aviation
  Departed: SAN DIEGO, CA               Dep Date:    Dep. Time:     
  Destination: SAN DIEGO, CA            Flt Plan: UNK          Wx Briefing: U
  Last Radio Cont: UNK   Last Clearance: UNK
  FAA FSDO: SAN DIEGO, CA  (WP09)                 Entry date: 03/30/2004

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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