KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — Former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday by making a tandem parachute jump near his summer home in coastal Maine, delivering on a vow he made five years ago even though he can no longer use his legs.
The nation's 41st president jumped from a helicopter at about 6,000 feet harnessed to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Golden Knights, the Army's parachute team. Elliott guided Bush to a gentle landing five years ago.
"That's what he wanted for his 90th birthday and that's what he got," Elliott said. "It's a very good feeling to be involved and be able to turn back time. He's probably feeling younger now than ever."
The helicopter picked up Bush outside his Kennebunkport home, known as Walker's Point. His family transported him from his wheelchair to the chopper, then sang "Happy Birthday" before it took off.
Bush later floated to the ground using a red, white and blue parachute and landed near St. Ann's Church, where friends and family had gathered, out of the sight of reporters. Elliott said Bush's foot got tangled up underneath him during the landing, causing him to tumble forward onto the ground. A spokesman later said the former president was feeling "fine."
"He had a big smile for the crowd. You could tell he was exhilarated," said Diana Untermeyer, a family friend from Houston. "He's an amazing man. This is just another sign of that. I think that like most of America, our family loves him to pieces. It was just a real thrill to do this again."
Witnesses said Bush was greeted with a kiss from his wife, Barbara, and a hug from his son George. The family left the landing zone without talking to reporters.