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Couple's skydiving vacation won on Ellen DeGeneres show turns to tragedy

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North Carolina residents Cherilyn McGraw and her husband, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brandon McGraw won a trip of a lifetime on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in January of this year, but their vacation tuned tragic last Saturday when Brandon’s parachute malfunctioned during his skydiving jump.

Yahoo! carried a statement on Friday from DeGeneres, who was speaking at Cherilyn’s request. DeGeneres asked that the McGraws be afforded privacy as they deal with their “unimaginable tragedy.”

“I've been speaking with Cherilyn. And my staff has been in touch with her as well,” DeGeneres said Thursday. “She's asked us to help keep this private as she tries to deal with this unimaginable tragedy. I hope everyone respects that.”

The McGraws had traveled to Australia for their vacation and skydive, and were about 100 miles north of Melbourne on an excursion chartered by Euroa Skydive. Cherilyn exited the plane first on a tandem jump, and Brandon followed solo. He was said to be an experienced skydiver.

Euroa Skydive spokesperson Ian Matthews, who was on the plane at the time, shared what he witnessed that day with the Daily News of Jacksonville, North Carolina, confirming Brandon’s experience as a Marine in skydiving.

“McGraw watched his wife do a tandem jump before exiting the plane,” Matthews said. “He floated for three or four minutes with a good canopy… A short time before landing, he suddenly began turning his parachute dramatically to the left and right and eventually crashed into the ground.”

Cherilyn memorialized her 33-year-old husband on Facebook, writing of Brandon:

"My hero. My angel. These are truly such symbolic photos. He was happy and doing what he loved… I love you more than anything in the world, honey. You are the most amazing man."

Brandon went into cardiac arrest after the crash and was pronounced dead at the scene. The Euroa Skydive school is now investigating the incident – the first fatality in its 30-year history.

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