Paraglider slams into mountainside

DRAPER, Utah (ABC 4 UTAH) – A man is in critical condition Sunday after his parachute collapsed and slammed him into rocky terrain. 

Eyewitnesses say they noticed the glider lifting his feet to avoid skimming the top of the mountain.  They say his parachute swooped up then quickly back down.  That's when they heard him hit the terrain.

Draper's Point of the Mountain Flight Park is world-renowned for its uniquely consistent winds.  Local gliders say the safest time to fly is typically just before sunset.

"This afternoon, at approximately 3:00, we got reports of a paraglider that had fallen here at the hangliding park," said Brian Anderton, Battalion Chief for Unified Fire Authority.

Gliders say he was visiting from California and that he was using a speed wing.  That means his parachute was smaller than the average paraglider's. 

"[Speed wings typically fly] closer to the terrain, but it's not more dangerous or anything like that," said Kristjan Morgan, a local paraglider.  

"The friend stated that his parachute had collapsed and instead of falling ten to fifteen feet, that he actually, like a pendulum, swung into the mountain with some force," said Anderton.

The park is called “Steep Mountain” for a reason. Gliders say the terrain is rough and dangerous for people who fall there.

"That's why we brought out a rope rescue team.  They set up what we call a low-angle rescue device to lower the patient down the mountain," said Anderton.

The man was unconscious by the time rescuers got there. They flew him to a near-by hospital.

Gliders say this is a good reminder for visiting pilots to familiarize themselves with the area.

"Spring flying can sometimes be tricky because the air is very unstable,” said Morgan.

For a short time after the accident Sunday, gliders stayed out of the winds.  By sunset, though, they were back on the mountain.  Officers are warning all pilots to fly safe and smart. 

"We know the risks that we're taking when we fly, and it's up to us to mitigate those risks and fly within our abilities at all times," Morgan explained. 

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