On May 23th between 7:10 and 7:20 PM at 355 Gum Tree Road, Coatesville PA, while flying his paramotor Henry “Clay” Baldwin impacted the ground first and subsequently a fencepost for a split rail wooden fence. He was hospitalized and placed on life support that evening.
On Sunday May 25’th, Clay was declared “brain-dead” with no chance of recovery and his wife Lisa made the decision to remove life support and he passed away 16 minutes later.
Clay was 55 years old, 160lbs, flying an Ozone Spyder 3 24M purchased in March 2020, and a Parajet Maverick Moster 185 purchased in January 2020.
Clay, from Coatesville PA, trained over 10 days Feb 7-17 2020 to the PPG 2 level and following the PPG2 syllabus in Wauchula Florida with 5 other students as part of a joint class between One Up Adventures, FlyMI PPG, and Paratour. His instructors were Kyle Mooney, Eric DuFour, Mike Cotter, Justin Fox, and myself. All are USPPA certified instructors with the exception of Mike Cotter. Although Clay met all practical and knowledge standards for PPG2, he chose not to pursue the rating.
Eyewitness accounts (which were relayed to me by his wife on the phone) described Clay as doing low to ground steep maneuvers before he made impact. After ground impact the remaining inertia carried him into a fencepost (see damage to cage hoop)
Tucker Gott graciously picked up his gear from Clay’s wife this past Thursday after the State Police released it back to her after their investigation. Tucker sent me photos, which I have attached below, and Tucker will be shipping the gear down to me this week.
Based on the photos, the engine was running at the time of impact (prop damage), and there is no indication of any pre-impact failures of the gear. I will inspect it again when it arrives here.
The weather history for that day in Coatesville can be seen here https://www.wunderground.com/history/daily/us/pa/coatesville/KMQS/date/2020-5-23
Clay was wearing a go pro, however the State Police reported that there was no video of the incident contained on the SD card.
I can only estimate that Clay has around 80 flights before the incident, his wife reports that he flew 2-3 times a day when weather was favorable. After his training in Wauchula, he had returned to Lake Wales in early March to get a few flights with me instructing him for his first few flights on his new Spyder 3 (his original glider was a Mojo PWR medium). During that time I observed and discussed with him the danger of him fly low while downwind. Clay always respected the training regimen.
Clay was also a volunteer throughout the Florida Fun Fest event in Palm Bay, FL.
Throughout the Covid period Clay had relayed a video to me via text of him doing low to ground steep maneuvers at home in Coatesville. I called and discussed with him the danger of those types of maneuvers, especially for his experience level, and convinced him to come back down to Florida for some intermediate training in early June which he agreed to do. I found out he had also sent video to at least one other student in his February class, who told him “you’re going to die if you don’t start slowing things down.”
I don’t know if weather played a factor, but may have as the weather history that day indicates light winds with 0 gusts until 7:15 PM when suddenly the gusts went from 0 to 14 MPH, and then gusts of 20 mph at the next observation at 7:35 PM. Conditions around the time of the incident were reported as fair to partly cloudy, winds variable at 7 gust 14, Temp 73, DP 64.
Clay was wearing a helmet and his wife reports it appears undamaged.
Cause of death was determined to be traumatic brain injury. I should note also that Clay had two past traumatic brain injuries during his life, the most recent 2.5 years prior.