OK it is starting to make a little bit more sense:
Woman Who Leapt From Plane Fought Off Attempt to Save Her
Kevin Fagan, Alan Gathright, Charlie Goodyear, Chronicle Staff Writers
Saturday, December 16, 2000
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle
Despondent over her recent emigration from Europe, the young woman who plunged to her death from a corporate plane near Sacramento was apparently so bent on dying that she fought off a colleague's desperate attempt to keep her from leaping out the door.
Searchers found Elisabeth "Lizette" Otto's body in a weedy field yesterday afternoon, more than 21 hours after her 2,000-foot fall to earth. And although many questions remained unanswered, authorities were leaning toward the conclusion that rather than a murder mystery or mechanical malfunction, what they were really dealing with was a suicide.
It devastated everyone involved: the passenger who tried to save her, her husband who was worried about her before she ever left the ground, the pilots and her many co-workers at Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto, where Otto worked in the purchasing department.
"It appears there was no crime aboard that plane, but just a very, very sad incident," said Andrew Black, spokesman for the FBI office in San Francisco. "There was no foul play."
One of the biggest remaining questions was why it took 38 minutes for anyone to call police after the DeHavilland DHC-6 twin-propeller plane landed Thursday evening at San Jose International Airport.
Investigators were still trying to pin that down.
The plane, chartered by Hewlett-Packard to carry five employees from the company's Roseville plant to San Jose, left Lincoln Regional Airport in Placer County about 4:30 p.m. The first sign of danger came when a control panel light flicked on shortly after takeoff, indicating that a rear door was unlocked. The pilot and co-pilot landed the craft at Sacramento Executive Airport, an old small-plane field south of downtown Sacramento, locked the door and took off again.
That's when the trouble began.
Otto apparently managed to heave the rear emergency door open about three minutes after takeoff at 5:23 p.m. As she stood in the doorway ready to jump, a co-worker sitting two seats from the rear twisted around and saw her.
"He lunged over the seat, grabbed her shoulder and tried to pull her back onto the plane," said Black. "He couldn't.
"He clearly took extraordinary measures to save her, with great danger to himself," Black added. "It was very selfless, and he was distraught that he couldn't hold her any more."
Aviation officials said Otto, 31, would have had to use all her strength to open the door as the plane soared skyward at more than 150 mph.
Alerted by a warning light that the rear door was open, the co-pilot went back to shut it, but engine and wind noise from the open portal evidently prevented him from hearing what anybody was saying. Because the cabin didn't have to be pressurized at that height, the open door would not have sucked people out, but the whooshing sound would have been incredible, aviation experts said.
'IT WAS CHAOS'
"It was chaos up there," one source close to the investigation said. "It's a loud plane, and the passenger is trying to explain that they lost a passenger, but the wind and the prop noise is too loud." Once the door was shut, the passenger evidently sat in shock as the co-pilot dashed back to the cabin, and the plane landed in San Jose about 15 minutes later.
Jerry Snyder, a spokesman for the FAA, said the agency does not believe that the pilot erred in continuing to San Jose after securing the door a second time.
"The inspector couldn't find any fault in his proceedings," Snyder said.
The co-pilot and pilot apparently didn't learn the news until they taxied to a halt in San Jose at 6:05 p.m. and came back to unload the passengers. After they consulted with company officials, an HP worker called the San Jose police 911 line 38 minutes later.
"It seems like they were just trying to sort out what the company should do,
and then they called the police," said the source. "But that's all still part of the investigation."
San Jose police records make it a little clearer. The department learned of the tragedy when a mechanic for HP's corporate aviation department at San Jose airport reported the missing passenger at 6:43 p.m., said San Jose Police Sgt. Steven Dixon.
Minutes later, fire paramedics were called to aid Otto's husband, Michael Otto, who had arrived to pick her up and grew agitated when no one could explain why his wife didn't get off the plane.
"He was saying, 'Where's my wife? Does anyone know what's happened to my wife?' " said San Jose Fire Capt. Mark Mooney, who arrived soon after paramedics. "It was just a strange scene, because no one was saying anything." Mooney said the assembled police and fire officials didn't want to traumatize Otto by questioning him before the FBI arrived.
"The paramedics were sitting in a little conference room with the husband, who was very upset and hyper-ventilating. And there was this big airplane with red tape all around it, and its back door was open," Mooney said.
Paramedic Brian Endicott helped Otto count to slow his breathing. "He was literally in a state of shock," he said. "And, while he was told what happened,
I don't know that he actually believed it."
Endicott said HP officials, including Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina,
arrived within minutes to support the grief-stricken husband.
"They were on it, and they had their top people there offering anything we needed to assist him," he said.
At Hewlett Packard headquarters in Palo Alto yesterday, grief counselors helped workers as they wrestled with their anguish.
Michael Otto, reached by phone last night, was too shaken to talk at length.
"It's too personal for me," he said, his voice cracking. "I don't think I'll ever want to talk about it, certainly not in a public way.
"It's all so much to deal with, so much. I have to deal with my wife's death and funeral right now."
Michael Otto told paramedics that he and his wife were newlyweds who had moved to San Francisco just 2 1/2 months ago. "They were both in fairly new positions with their jobs, and they were sightseeing and traveling around the area on weekends, just trying to get adjusted to the American culture and lifestyle," Endicott said.
Sources close to the investigation said that Lizette Otto had recently come to the United States from either Holland or Denmark and that her husband is apparently from Germany. They had no children.
"She was depressed," said the source. "She had to deal with change in living here, and she had trouble dealing with the move.
"Her husband was concerned before she even took off that day, thought this sort of thing was a possibility. What a way to commit suicide, if that's what happened."
MALFUNCTION RULED OUT
FAA and National Transportation Safety Board records indicated no history of problems or accidents with the plane. An FAA inspector who examined the plane in San Jose yesterday morning determined that there was no equipment malfunction, said FAA Western Regional spokesman Jerry Snyder.
Search teams on the ground and in helicopters examined the south Sacramento area for hours yesterday before residents near an overgrown community garden found Otto's body about 2 p.m.
TRAGEDY IN THE SKY
Thursday 1) 4:30 p.m. Hewlett-Packard plane takes off from Lincoln Regional Airport in Placer County. 2) Pilot sees light indicating a door is unlocked. 3) 4:48 p.m. Plane makes emergency landing at Sacramento Executive Airport. Crew locks door. 5:23 p.m. Plane takes off again. 4) 5:26 p.m. At 2,000 feet, a light comes on indicating a door is open. 5) Woman falls from plane; body found about 10 miles south of Sacramento. 6) 6:05 p.m. Plane lands at San Jose Airport. 6:43 p.m. Authorities are contacted.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle Page A1