Brandon McGraw, Cherilyn McGraw


This was a vacation gone terribly wrong.

Cherilyn McGraw, a special education teacher from Hampstead, N.C., is mourning the loss of her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Brandon McGraw, after he died from a tragic skydiving accident in Australia over the weekend, a trip that Cherilyn had won on The Ellen DeGeneres Show back in January 2013.

On Saturday, the couple headed to Euroa Skydive, an Australian skydiving school, and went up in the same plane to make the jump.

Employee Ian Matthews told The Daily News that Brandon, who recently returned from Afghanistan, was an experienced skydiver with more than "a few jumps under his belt," adding, "McGraw watched his wife do a tandem jump before exiting the plane. 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," Matthews said.

Brandon McGraw, Cherilyn McGraw


When paramedics arrived, McGraw was in cardiac arrest, according to reports by emergency responders. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate him and he died at the scene.

Although a cause of death has not been released, Australian news media have reported high winds in the area may have factored in the tragedy.

"My hero. My angel. These are truly such symbolic photos. He was happy and doing what he loved. It's amazing all that photos can capture in a moments time. The last 2 photos taken. I love you more than anything in the world, honey. You are the most amazing man," Cherilyn posted on Facebook Monday.

"I just want to say that this stupid Facebook has been my saving grace this week. I'm beyond honored and words will never be able to express my gratitude for all the love, support and prayers. You all have kept me SO strong. I am in mission mode to get us back to the USA. We cannot wait to get home. (I don't know when we'll be home and I won't be sharing when We get home so please don't ask.)"

E! News has reached out to the Ellen show for comment.

UPDATE: Ellen DeGeneres released the following statement to E! News: "I've been speaking with Cherilyn. And my staff has been in touch with her as well. She's asked us to help keep this private as she tries to deal with this unimaginable tragedy. I hope everyone respects that."

Originally published on Dec. 18, 2013 at 7:17 p.m. PST.

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