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Navy man's death blamed on 'supermanning'

NORFOLK, Va., Dec. 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy said a helicopter crewman was killed while "Supermanning," a stunt in which a person hangs outside an aircraft attached only by a safety belt.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Aviation Brian Joplin, 32, died Oct. 4 after he fell about 125 feet from a helicopter and into the Persian Gulf. The Navy said the craft's pilots were unaware of the stunt until just before Joplin fell, the Virginia-Pilot newspaper reported.

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Rear Adm. Denby Starling, commander of the Atlantic Fleet Naval Air Force, told the newspaper eight crew members from Joplin's squadron had been disciplined for performing "Supermanning" or failing to report incidents.

Starling said crews apparently only did the trick when the aircraft was carrying enough cargo to hide their actions from pilots. "My general impression is the sailors went to significant extremes to hide it from the pilots," he said.

An incident report regarding Joplin's death, and obtained by the Virginia-Pilot Thursday, said Joplin was attached to the helicopter by a 10-foot safety belt and held on to a strut and tie-down rig with his hands and "his legs were flying out behind him horizontally" in "the Superman" maneuver."

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