Paraglider crashes in wild summit dive

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2013
French paraglider
COMING DOWN: Department of Conservation staff took this picture of a French paraglider less than a minute before he crashed landed in the North Egmont visitor’s centre car park.

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A French paraglider's daring flight from the summit of Mt Taranaki came close to ending in death.

The 24-year-old smashed through the tops of several trees, bounced off the roof of a camper van at the North Egmont visitor centre and landed so hard on the car park asphalt he bounced, witnesses said.

"He hit it with a bang. Jeez, he hit it hard," said Jim Fisher of Nelson.

"He tried to get up after he landed and pull his parachute in but he collapsed. I think he hurt his back pretty bad."

Other witnesses who worked in the centre said the man jumped from the summit of Mt Taranaki and came down fast.

"I saw him jump. I ran down to get my camera and after one minute he was already halfway down. You could hear the wind beneath his chute. He was going really fast," one worker said.

Another said the tourist appeared to have initially caught a massive updraught but then began coming down the mountain too quickly.

The man was equipped with a helmet, protective clothing and an "expensive chute" and witnesses said he told them he was an experienced paraglider.

Though the crash landing looked painful and an ambulance took him to hospital, the man suffered only bruising and abrasions and was not admitted to hospital.

DOC officer Dave Rogers said it was not illegal to paraglide off Mt Taranaki but it was not something the department would encourage.

"It's a grey area. Legally, there's not anything we can do about it.

"The high winds up there make it a pretty risky activity and there are not many places to land," he said.

He was aware of previous hang-glider flights from the summit.

Ian McAlpine, of MacAlpine Guides Taranaki, was stunned that someone paraglided off the mountain on Saturday given the windy conditions.

"I can't believe someone flew yesterday."

He said the shape of the mountain caused wind shear - changes in wind speed and direction over a relatively short distance.

They were conditions someone unfamiliar with the area would not be prepared for, he said.

"In France they have constant wind, in Taranaki it's building, building, from minute to minute."

The callout was just one of four incidents on Mt Taranaki on Saturday. Police said two climbers in two different parties suffered debilitating cramps, with one having to be winched off the summit by the Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter.

Two hours before that fire crews were called to the North Egmont visitor's centre to put out the smoking engine of a car.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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