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Passenger hangs self on airline flight after arson bust
Scripps Howard News Service


February 10, 2006

DENVER - Just three days after a frustrated car buyer was accused of torching a Ford dealership in Miami, he hanged himself from a piece of his own clothing during a cross-country airline flight.

Officials say Gerald "Gerry" Georgettis, 56, committed suicide Wednesday on United Flight 209 from Washington to Los Angeles. The flight was diverted to Denver International Airport, where police met the plane.

The flight crew asked an off-duty Secret Service agent to break down the door of an airplane lavatory when Georgettis didn't respond to repeated knocks, according to Denver police.




"He was in there long enough to raise questions," police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

The suicide ended a week of public turmoil for Georgettis, a theater manager and music junkie.

On Saturday, police said Georgettis drove his newly purchased Ford Escape through the showroom of Metro Ford dealership in Miami, in protest of the price he realized he'd be paying.

After plowing through the showroom glass, witnesses told police that he doused the SUV in gasoline, lit a match and walked away as if nothing had happened.

The incident caused nearly $1 million in damages. Eleven vehicles were destroyed, including Georgettis' SUV.

A surveillance video shows Georgettis calmly walking away and then returning to stare at the flames, dealership president Lombardo Perez told The Miami Herald.

He later told investigators that he had threatened to return to the car dealership and burn it down, according to Miami-Dade police.

The episode received widespread publicity in Florida, making him a reluctant consumer hero, according to the Herald. He was lauded by one paper for "sticking it to the man."

Georgettis told his best friend that a police officer jokingly told him he wished he could do the same thing, the Herald reported.

Georgettis, charged with arson and criminal mischief, posted $1,500 bond Sunday. The following day, he resigned his position as North Miami Beach theater manager.

"Really, everybody liked him," North Miami Beach Mayor Raymond Marin said. "He did a great job for the city. And we are all stunned by his suicide. We don't understand it, none of us do. We just pray for his family now."

Georgettis, an Australian, previously worked as a roadie for rock bands and at one point was a manager for Pink Floyd and Jane's Addiction.

"In all honesty, I don't know anyone more stable than Gerry. He was not depressed," his best friend and musician Bill Yeager told the Herald. "I was at his house for Christmas. We played golf the next day."

Georgettis had been in trouble with the law before. In 1994 Georgettis was convicted of assault on a Miami-Dade police officer, according to his then-lawyer Mel Black.

In May of that year, police received a 911 hang-up call from Georgettis' home. When officers arrived there, Georgettis' then-wife admitted to calling police after a dispute with her husband, Black said.

The couple told the officers that everything was OK. But Georgettis, who later divorced, got into a scuffle with officers. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Black said he appealed Georgettis' conviction, which was reduced to probation, psychological counseling and community service. The counseling did not reveal any problems, Black added.

But that all changed this week.

On Tuesday night, Georgettis called Yeager from Orlando and said he was worried about mounting legal bills. He feared that his girlfriend would suffer. "I'm not going to put her through that. She's always been there for me," he told Yeager, according to the Herald.

Flight 209 departed Dulles International Airport at 2:40 p.m. EST the next day and was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles at 5:17 p.m. PST. But as the aircraft flew above Denver, the flight crew found Georgettis' lifeless body hanging in the bathroom.


Contact Sarah Langbein of the Rocky Mountain News at

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