A 104-year-old skydiver – who could be certified as the oldest person to ever jump out of a plane – has died just a week after a daredevil stunt.
Dorothy Hoffner said “let’s go, let’s go, Geronimo” as she dived headfirst out of a plane from 13,500 feet (4,114m) in northern Illinois in the US on 1 October.
Close friend Joe Conant said she just wanted to jump and wasn’t looking to break any records – although he is filing paperwork for Guinness World Records, with the current record holder aged 103.
But on Tuesday, Mr Conant revealed Ms Hoffner was found dead at her retirement home on Monday morning, having apparently died in her sleep one week on from her skydive.
“She was indefatigable. She just kept going,” said Mr Conant, a nurse who met Ms Hoffner several years ago while working as a carer for another resident.
“She was not someone who would take naps in the afternoon, or not show up for any function, dinner or anything else. She was always there, fully present. She kept going, always.”
Ms Hoffner wanted to jump last week to relive the fun she had from her first jump – when she was 100 – but this time she wanted to lead the jump, rather than be pushed out.
A crowd cheered as she landed in Ottawa, 140 kilometres (85 miles) southwest of Chicago, and she told them “age is just a number”.
As she was reunited with her walking frame, she said it was “wonderful” to be back on the ground.
She said it was “wonderful up there”, adding: “The whole thing was delightful, wonderful, couldn’t have been better.”
The lifelong Chicago resident, who was going to turn 105 in December, had said she was considering riding a hot air balloon next.
“I’ve never been in one of those,” she said.
Mr Conant said he is working through paperwork to ensure Guinness World Records certifies his friend posthumously as the world’s oldest skydiver, but he expects that will take time.
The current record was set in May 2022 by 103-year-old Linnea Ingegard Larsson of Sweden.
“She had no intention of breaking the record, and she had no interest in any publicity or anything,” Mr Conant said of Ms Hoffner.
“She wasn’t doing it for any other reason than she wanted to go skydiving.”
‘Never too late to take the thrill of a lifetime’
Skydive Chicago and the United States Parachute Association paid tribute to Ms Hoffner in a joint statement on Tuesday.
“We are deeply saddened by Dorothy’s passing and feel honoured to have been a part of making her world record skydive a reality,” they said.
“Dorothy reminds us that it’s never too late to take the thrill of a lifetime. We are forever grateful that skydiving was a part of her exciting, well-lived life.”
Mr Conant said Ms Hoffner worked as a telephone operator with Illinois Bell, which later became AT&T, for more than 40 years and retired 43 years ago.
She never married and Mr Conant said she had no immediate family members.
A memorial service for Ms Hoffner will be held in early November.
“She was a dear friend who was an inspiration,” Mr Conant added.