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Instructor: Paragliding is safe despite recent crashes

Instructor: Paragliding is safe despite recent crashes



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DRAPER -- Paragliding enthusiasts say their sport is safe, despite two crashes at the Point of the Mountain in less than 24 hours.

Paragliding instructor Steve Mayer from Cloud Nine in Draper was at the Flight Park State Recreation Area for both crashes. He says the one Thursday morning involved a newer pilot that might have gotten into a bad situation because so many people were out flying.

"He just got too close the hill and just got pushed out by traffic or something. I didn't actually see the impact, but it was so crowded it is easy to get pushed into the side of the hill," said Mayer. "This time it looks like a broken arm, so it wasn't super severe, but we don't like anytime there are injuries."

Mayer is also the safety officer for the Utah Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, which means he reviews all the local accidents. He says a crash that took place Wednesday night involved a pilot from out of town who is well known for his aerobatic stunts, such as looping his paraglider upside down.

"These top pilots, they know the risks, they know the situations they put themselves in. All we kind of do is shake our head and go well, it happened again," said Mayer. "With aerobatics it's not if, it's usually when you are going to hit the hill. It just was unfortunate his reserve parachute didn't have another 20 or 30 feet to fully open."

He says the pilot suffered two broken legs when he hit and was then dragged by his parachute.

However, Mayer says most gliders at the Point of the Mountain aren't doing aerobatics and crazy stunts.

"You come out. You go through training and do it properly. You listen to what your instructors say. You go slow and easy. You're going to fly for a long, long time and you just are not going to have any problems or issues," said Mayer.

Mayer says the key to avoiding injury is to play it safe. "This sport is very safe. If it wasn't safe we wouldn't have a business, and we've been doing this for 17 years, and we have an excellent safety record," said Mayer. "Anytime you are in aviation and you are doing an extreme sport there are definite risks out there."

Mayer says it's also important to survey the conditions when you fly.

"Today was quite crowded, and one of the toughest decisions that we make as pilots is when it's too crowded sometimes you have to say, hey, it's not appropriate to fly," said Mayer. "Our students, we actually sent to the bottom because it was too crowded to be flying."

E-mail: rjeppesen@ksl.com

Randall Jeppesen

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