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Age: 0 Weight: 0 Gender: Highest rating held at the time of the incident: Pilot experience level:
Wing Brand: Model: Silex Size: Paramotor Frame: N/A with
January 1, 2006 Location of the incident: , Type of Incident:
I came out of the hotel after lunch and a little nap to fly in the afternoon, sea breeze air that typically develops. I was warming up my motor, looking around and noticed there were only 2 pilots in the air, directly over the LZ, several hundred feet up. Looking into the western (inland) sky I observed big, black, billowing, boiling thunderclouds moving briskly toward the beach. The breeze was now starting to come from the west, off shore but not yet that strong. At this same time, a 3rd pilot took off heading south. He appeared to have a riser twist. Another observing pilot told me that he had brake extensions, one of which wrapped around both risers. It appeared he quickly solved that problem.
At this point I decided to stay on the ground, seeing how it was that I was the leading contender for the “Dumb Ass of the Fly In ” award, due to my crash the previous day. And besides, My momma didn’t raise no fool. With billowing black clouds ( and I mean billowing), charging in like a freight train, it seemed like a ‘no brainer’ to stay on the ground. Two minutes later, a friend walked by and with a stern tone asking me to please “stay on the ground”. Hey, you don’t have to tell me twice. The clouds were stretched a long way up and down the beach, both to the north and the south. The 2 pilots that were in the air overhead quickly landed. Another pilot continued flying south and climbing higher. Three or 4 minutes later he had several hundred feet of altitude and it appeared he was heading back to the LZ. At this point, even an untrained, casual observer could have figured out the pilot was about to have an appointment with a serious problem.
He was over the beach, heading inland toward the storm, obviously fighting an increasing wind to avoid a paraswim. At this moment I started running down the beach toward him, because the inevitable was obviously approaching quickly. He was fighting the violent, turbulent wind, while at the same time being blown out to sea . He was being tossed in all directions and experienced several collapses of at least 50%. With each collapse he lost more altitude, until at about 50 to 80 feet , the last collapse sent him plunging into the water.
I continued sprinting down the beach. A young lifeguard ran past me dragging a float on a sling. A minute later a surfer ran past me carrying a surfboard. Now I’m thinking I should’ve taken up jogging because I’m running out of gas and these young bucks are blowing right by me. Needless to say by the time I got to the entry point I was too winded to swim and smart enough not to try. Consequently, the young life guard only made it about halfway to the downed pilot before he started to drown and had to be rescued by another surfer, who was the son of an attending paraglider pilot. After throwing up blood on the surfboard the lifeguard was brought to shore. The hard pounding rain and wind were in full force. By this time 3 SUV police cars, 2 lifeguard trucks and another life guard truck towing a jet ski were on the scene, with the jet ski heading out through the waves for the rescue. There had been no sign of the pilot since he entered the water as observed from shore, and after what seemed like an eternity, I feared that he didn’t make it; my heart sunk. About 10 minutes later, the pilot was dragged to shore by the surfer, right in front of where I was standing. I ran out into the water and greeted the pilot , we talked for a few minutes and then decided that it would probably be a good idea to go up the beach and inform the hard working rescue team that the pilot was standing right here on the beach.
Pilot’s version as told to me: He didn’t think the storm was a threat. (He obviously didn’t take it seriously enough) . (Side note – often times the afternoon thunderstorms will be held at bay and kept inland, by the onshore sea breeze , unable to penetrate all the way to the beach. This however, wasn’t one of those days). The pilot recounted his effort to fly the wing in the turbulent air , while taking collapses and trying to steer to the shore. Because of this effort he didn’t unbuckle and hit the water fully strapped in. He said the he hit the water without taking a good breath of air before going under. The front of the wing hit first, leaving the air trapped in the wing. Keeping him afloat. But then the strong wind was pushing the wing like a sail and actually dragging him with the motor attached, backwards through the water. He could just barely reach his hand to the surface while being dragged backwards. He tried to relax, and slowly and methodically reached for each buckle and unfastened them one at a time, miraculously freeing himself.
Points to ponder:
1. The day before, a similar occurrence happened. This pilot and another pilot were caught just off shore and had trouble making it back (but did). That day the storm wasn’t as strong and did not come all the way to the beach.
2. This same pilot has gone into the water on 2 previous occasions.
Flight Window: Wind Speed: Type: Phase of Flight: Type of Injury: Collateral Damage: Analysis of the incident (additional input by the incident investigation team): Photos (if available):
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