James Miller (parachutist)
James Jarrett Miller also known as Fan Man (October 28, 1963 – c. September 22, 2002) was a parachutist and paraglider pilot from Henderson, Nevada, known for his appearances at various sporting events. His most famous appearance was the November 6, 1993 boxing match between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip near Las Vegas, Nevada. Fan Man made headlines in the United States when he used his powered paraglider to fly into the arena, eventually crashing into the ring.
Born in Havre de Grace, Maryland, Miller was an avid outdoorsman, computer technician, small business owner, and extreme sports enthusiast who enjoyed power paragliding. Miller held an Associate's degree in computer programming from the University of Alaska at Juneau. He was introduced to paragliders while living in Las Vegas.
He started with a jetpack tied to his back, and moved up to two-cycle aircraft engines which powered him through the skies above the desert. He began setting power-gliding records for altitude and distance, with a reputation for reckless daring.
Miller relocated to Valdez, Alaska where he continued to fly ultralight aircraft and paragliders in the Alaskan wilderness until he developed heart problems. He was diagnosed with a serious coronary condition, had heart surgery twice, and was forced to close his small computer business in Valdez in order to move to Anchorage, where he was closer to medical care and friends and family.
The Fan Man Fight
Miller's first and most famous stunt happened on November 6, 1993 during the heavyweight title fight between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield. Miller descended into the ring area during the second minute of the seventh round of the fight, after circling Caesar’s Palace for 10 minutes. The lines of his paraglider became tangled in the overhead lights, after which he landed on the top rope of the ring with his parachute still tangled in the lights. He tried to hang on with one foot and one hand on that top rope for a few seconds until he either fell or was dragged down into the crowd by spectators, his parachute ripping away from the lights above.
Fans and the fighters' security detail swarmed around him immediately and began attacking him. He was knocked unconscious during the attack. One security officer reportedly struck Miller twenty times. He was rushed to a nearby hospital as spectators cut his paraglider into pieces for souvenirs. After his release from the hospital, Miller was taken to the Clark County Detention Center, where he was charged with dangerous flying and released on $200 bail.
In an exclusive interview with British journalists after the bout, Miller categorized his ring crash as accidental and not intentional, claiming it was caused by mechanical problems. This was belied by ESPN's footage taken from the aerial blimp of Miller's descent, which showed Miller's descent towards the ring area was carefully planned.
"It was a heavyweight fight," Miller would joke later, "and I was the only guy who got knocked out."
The media immediately dubbed Miller "Fan Man," for the paramotor (lightweight engine and propeller) attached to his harness.
In January 1994, Miller flew over a Denver Broncos-Los Angeles Raiders NFL playoff game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He landed in a nearby park, where he was arrested for interfering with a sporting event. After the game, Raiders defensive end Howie Long said that had Miller landed in the stands, he would have received a beating even more severe than the one he endured in Las Vegas due to Raider Nation's notorious raucousness. "Magnify that beating tenfold. That's what he would have gotten here," Long said.
In February 1994, he skydived into the middle of a Bolton Wanderers-Arsenal Premier League soccer match at Burnden Park in Bolton, England. After serving a seven day prison sentence, Miller was deported by British authorities.
Miller returned to the UK later in 1994 and paraglided atop Buckingham Palace painted green, with his private parts painted in glow-in-the-dark paint after his trousers were removed. He was banned from the UK for life for this incident.
Miller was reported missing on September 22, 2002. On March 9, 2003, a group of hunters bushwhacking through the woods on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska found a decomposing body identified as that of James Miller. Police said he had chosen the remote Resurrection Pass Trail in Chugach National Forest, veering deep off-trail to a spot that might not have been discovered for years, if ever. Miller had hanged himself from a tree, and the death was ruled a suicide. Miller had been suffering from a debilitating heart disease and was overwhelmed by medical bills.
Miller left behind a pregnant girlfriend who gave birth to a son, Logan, on February 14, 2003.
Although Miller's disappearance and death were reported in the local press, his suicide did not become widely known outside Alaska until later in 2003, when ESPN went searching for him to film a SportsCenter feature to be shown during the tenth anniversary of his stunt.
- "Obituary". Anchorage Daily News. 2003-03-21.
- "Grudge Match". CNN. January 17, 1994.
- "The 30 most outrageous sporting moments". The Guardian (London).
- Davies, Caroline (April 3, 2003). "Deported Palace paraglider kills himself in Alaska". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Tizon, Tomas Alex (2005-03-06). "Alaska: the land of the lost" (http). Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2006-11-28.
- Boxing News[dead link]