HP worker's fall from plane may have been suicide

Bizarre circumstances of tragic death

A preliminary investigation has concluded that a Hewlett-Packard worker who fell 2,000 feet to her death from a plane last week probably committed suicide.

The body of Elisabeth Otto, who worked in the computer-giant's purchasing division, was discovered in a garden in Sacramento after she fell from a company-operated plane.

The plane, which was carrying five passengers and two pilots, was a Canadian-built DeHavilland DHC-6-300, a twin turboprop plane used for the regular shuttle flights between HP's Silicon Valley offices and its Roseville campus.

The plane had to make an unscheduled landing in Sacremento soon after takeoff because a warning light indicated the door was unlocked. The plane took off after the pilot had secured the door.

Earlier reports suggested that the woman was only missed shortly after take off. However it now seems that shortly after take off the door opened again and another passenger noticed Otto hanging half way out the door. He then made an unsuccessful attempt to pull her back onto the plane.

According to Associated Press reports, the FBI discovered that two passengers who saw the woman exit the plane were so distraught that they were unable to tell pilots what had happened. Because of this police were not notified about what had happened until 45 minutes after the plane landed in San Jose, California on Thursday night.

"We've ruled out foul play on behalf of any of the passengers," FBI spokesman Andrew Black told Associated Press. "We're looking at it strictly as a possible suicide or an accident."

Federal Aviation Authority inspectors concluded there was no mechanical fault to the plane's doors and that, in the circumstances the pilots did not behave improperly in proceeding when they had secured the door a second time. ®

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