I woke at 0600, opened the WindAlert app, and messaged Ben that today’s wind forecast looked “whack”. The choice of word would prove prescient. He suggested a late start on the north side and I figured we would get in a decent if short and messy morning of kiting practice.
When we arrived the wind was entirely calm and so a handful of us were hanging out chatting in the lower area waiting to see if conditions would turn favorable. Other folks were launching off the upper area and flying down to where we were.
I heard gasps and turned around to see a huge plume of dust. Several people were running toward it with phones out. When I realized what had happened I was astonished by how loud the sound was.
What I had heard, and that others had seen, was a paraglider attempting an aerobatic corkscrew landing but instead of flattening the trajectory at the last moment she had instead flown directly into the ground at ~30MPH. Someone with line of sight remarked that she had not pulled up at all and bounced a couple of feet on impact.
About twenty minutes after first responders arrived a Life Flight chopper landed.
I was in disbelief that the pilot could have survived such an impact…
… but about fifteen minutes later they began loading her aboard…
… and in less than five more minutes they were on their way…
As I reflect in concert on the extreme caution I am currently taking as a beginner paraglider, the extreme risks that this unlucky pilot was taking, and the near misses I have had in other sports such as biking (hit by car), soccer (concussion from cleats), and skiing (too numerous to mention), I am offered a stark reminder that nearly every activity is as dangerous as you choose to make it. In large measure you make your own luck through advanced preparation, situational awareness, and limit adherence.
After the chopper had left Ben asked me what I wanted to do. I remarked that I don’t trust my brain’s ability to self-assess after situations like these and thus the “do nothing” tactic seemed as applicable here as anywhere.
“What do you do with the rest of your day after something like this?”, someone asked.