Return to the incident list: Incident List Pilot sustains serious arm injury while ground starting PPG Type: Foot Launch – Single Occupant Type of Injury: Major Injury
Age: 72 Weight: 185 Gender: Male Highest rating held at the time of the incident: None Pilot experience level: 50+ hours
Wing Brand: Fresh Breeze Model: N/A Size: N/A Paramotor Frame: Fresh Breeze Solo with Simonini Solo 210cc
October 9, 2022 10:00 AM Location of the incident: Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada Type of Incident: Engine Malfunction
I purchased this Fresh Breeze Solo 210cc second hand and the seller dismantled the engine before shipment. Upon delivery, in my garage I proceeded to mount the various parts – the carburetor, intake, exhaust and fuel tank – to the engine which was already mounted to the frame, then completed the assembly by adding the cage to the frame. I inspected everything including the carburetor piston and all appeared to be in very good condition. So, I decided to take it out into the driveway, start it up and see if it would run as well as it did in the video the seller sent me.
Now, a little bit of background. I started flying fixed wing airplanes in 1967, obtaining my PPL in 1968. I first saw paragliding while in Cape Town, South Africa, in early 1991 and realized it would be a great way to combine flying with my travels. But, it wasn’t until 1997 when living on Phuket in southern Thailand that I finally got around to buying one, in fact two – Fly Constelluccio Solo and Tandem units from Italy. Being the only person with a paramotor in southern Thailand at that time, I had to teach myself to fly and did so successfully, flying regularly between 1997 and 2003 when I sold the units before departing Uganda where I had been living for two years.
The fact is I often did ground starts on my Fly Constelluccio units and never once experienced any difficulties. So, you could quite rightly deduce that I was completely unaware of any potential for injury. In all my years of powered paragliding, I was always alone. I never met another paramotor pilot nor came across any sources of paragliding information on my limited internet access in Asia and Africa. In the intervening years, my attention turned to microlights with the purchase of a Polaris Flying Inflatable Boat. So, until last year when I saw an ad for a used paramotor, I hadn’t really thought too much about the sport.
When the paramotor arrived, it didn’t occur to me that there was a considerable difference in power between this Solo 210cc and my smaller Fly units. So, I started it up in the driveway that morning just as I had done countless times with my original paramotors two decades ago.
Unfortunately, something unforeseen caused the engine to immediately accelerate to full throttle, causing the paramotor to pitch forward and tumble towards me. The propeller blade first hit my chest on my left side at heart level and I presume I must have pushed out with my arms to try to deflect the propeller. Two extremely hard thumps on my right arm immediately informed me I had not been entirely successful in doing so.
After striking me, the paramotor with its now broken propeller, lay flat on my lawn, the engine screaming at the highest revs. I managed to kill the engine, then picked up my arm parts and went into the house to find something to staunch the firehose like stream of blood gushing out from the severed arteries in what remained of my arm. In the house, I asked my autistic son to call 911 while I grabbed a roll of paper towels and pressed it firmly against my stump.
My son valiantly dialed 911 and although not a good communicator managed to summon the paramedics, making only a minor error in giving them the wrong address which I managed to correct in time, and in about seven minutes emergency services were at the door. I was told later that it only takes about seven minutes to ex-sanguinate when both arteries have been severed so, obviously, the roll of paper towels made a significant contribution to my survival.
At the small regional hospital that relies on a rotation system of doctors that work a circuit, I was fortunate the particular doctor on rotation that week had microsurgery skills and was able to re-establish blood flow to my hand. I was then put in an air ambulance and flown 400 miles south to the nearest major hospital. There, surgeons decided that they could not only reattach the lower part of my forearm, but replace the missing upper part with a section of the fibula and adjoining muscle and flesh from my right leg.
After two months in the hospital, I finally returned home on October 9th, 2022 and have been undergoing regular occupational therapy ever since. At the moment, a fourth operation has been scheduled for later this month, September 20th, 2023, in which surgeons are going to create new extensor tendons from fibrous material in my hip so that I will once again be able to raise my hand at the wrist and spread my fingers.
I plan on flying again. In fact, I have recently completed construction of a trike on which I have mounted my Fresh Breeze paramotor. The obvious take away from this incident is to avoid ground starts as much as possible especially with no-clutched propellers. And if for some reason a ground start is necessary, ensure the paramotor is firmly affixed to an immovable structure and your finger is touching the kill switch to instantly shut down the engine if need be.
Flight Window: Morning Wind Speed: N/A or Unknown Type: N/A or Unknown Phase of Flight: Other/Unknown Type of Injury: Major Injury Collateral Damage: None Analysis of the incident (additional input by the incident investigation team): Photos (if available): https://usppa.org/frm_file/aWQ6MTEzOTR8ZmlsZW5hbWU6MDgzQUIyRTgtMzI5OC00NUIyLUEzNjgtQTNBMjczNjZGMEE5XzFfMTA1X2MuanBlZ3xzaXplOnRodW1ibmFpbA==, https://usppa.org/frm_file/aWQ6MTEzOTV8ZmlsZW5hbWU6M0Y3NTQ4NDktNDdCRC00QkExLUJEMEYtRENENTg1REYxMUE0XzFfMTA1X2MuanBlZ3xzaXplOnRodW1ibmFpbA==, https://usppa.org/frm_file/aWQ6MTEzOTZ8ZmlsZW5hbWU6QzI1ODc5NUYtQTA0My00RkU1LTlGNkItRUYzMkRBRDRDOTUxXzFfMTA1X2MuanBlZ3xzaXplOnRodW1ibmFpbA==, https://usppa.org/frm_file/aWQ6MTEzOTd8ZmlsZW5hbWU6QkMzMjY1MDgtMEMyOS00MTM0LTlBQzgtQjkyNkYxMTM4OTIwXzFfMTA1X2MuanBlZ3xzaXplOnRodW1ibmFpbA==, https://usppa.org/frm_file/aWQ6MTEzOTh8ZmlsZW5hbWU6N0U4NTk2QkYtMTVCMS00N0VELUE1OTAtN0YzNjYyMDREOTg1XzFfMTA1X2MuanBlZ3xzaXplOnRodW1ibmFpbA==, https://usppa.org/frm_file/aWQ6MTEzOTl8ZmlsZW5hbWU6OTI1QzFENzktRTNERi00NTFCLThEREMtMDE3NDNBQkIzQkVEXzFfMTA1X2MuanBlZ3xzaXplOnRodW1ibmFpbA==, https://usppa.org/frm_file/aWQ6MTE0MDB8ZmlsZW5hbWU6SHVnaC1hbmQtaGlzLVRyaWtlLmpwZ3xzaXplOnRodW1ibmFpbA==
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