Wednesday 23 July 2014

Former US President George Bush parachutes his way to 90th birthday celebrations

Mr Bush, who can no longer use his legs, floated to the ground in a parachute

Published 12/06/2014|20:12

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Former President George H.W. Bush, left, strapped to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, land on the lawn at St. Anne's Episcopal Church after making a tandem parachute jump near Bush's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday, June 12, 2014. Bush made the jump, his eighth, in celebration of his 90th birthday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Former President George H.W. Bush lands in Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Former US president George Bush has celebrated his 90th birthday by making a tandem parachute jump near his summer home in Maine.

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The 41st president jumped out of a helicopter while harnessed to a retired member of the army's parachute team.

Mr Bush, who can no longer use his legs, could be seen floating to the ground using a red, white and blue parachute.

A spokesman said he landed safely and softly, out of the sight of reporters.

Mr Bush made good on a promise from five years ago, when he also celebrated his birthday by skydiving.

The first time Mr Bush jumped from a plane was when his aircraft was shot down during the Second World War over the Pacific.

"It's a wonderful day in Maine - in fact, nice enough for a parachute jump," he announced on Twitter.

The announcement was kept secret until the last minute, partly to give Mr Bush himself the option of changing his mind.

Spokesman Jim McGrath said Mr Bush likes both a surprise and an adrenaline rush.

"It's vintage George Bush," he said. "It's that passion for life. It's wanting to set a goal, wanting to achieve it. I'm sure part of it is sending a message to others that even in your retirement years you can still find challenges."

Other birthday festivities included a private dinner with more than 200 relatives and friends. His children, former president George W Bush and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, will also be there.

"He had a big smile for the crowd. You could tell he was exhilarated," said Diana Untermeyer, a family friend.

Witnesses said he was greeted with a hug and a kiss from his wife, Barbara, and a hug from his son George.

The family left the landing zone without talking to reporters nearby.

Hundreds of people gathered on the rocky coast to get a glimpse of the jump.

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