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Paraglider describes midair eagle attack

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By Vincent Coste and Duncan Hooper
Mathieu Thuner
Mathieu Thuner   -   Copyright  Mathieu Thuner

A paraglider has described how he was attacked from behind by an eagle while flying in the Swiss Alps.

Mathieu Thuner revealed on his Facebook page that he was airborne near the town of Bex last week, when an eagle launched itself against his back, almost triggering his emergency parachute.

The royal eagle detached only to strike again, this time clinging onto Thuner’s right hand. All Thuner could do was shout and try to shake his hand until the bird released its grip. During a brief pause, the eagle followed, between the parachute and its pilot, before attacking once more, clawing Thuner’s left hand and shoulder before latching onto his forearm.

Mathieu Thuner

“Trying regardless to control my wing as best as possible so that it didn’t collapse in the powerful aerial battle, every movement of my arm was hampered by the significant weight of my predator,” Thuner wrote. “My forearm felt as though it was trapped in a pitiless vice of needles.”

He estimates it was four or five minutes before the eagle released him and he was able to descend safely and land. 

“After the eagle left I didn’t know whether he would return again after he had already attacked me three times,” Thuner said in an emailed response to questions from Euronews. “Just before landing I saw a bird that looked like a crow and just seeing it scared me.”

Mathieu Thuner

He was treated for more than four and a half hours in hospital for wounds as deep as 5cm in places.

Experts told him that he must have been near the eagle’s nest and it was probably trying to protect its young. Royal eagles can reach up to 2m 30 from wingtip to wingtip but Thuner says he doesn't know how big the bird that attacked him was.