(Reuters) – Two paragliders collided in midair above one of the most popular paraglider ports in the United States, falling about 75 feet (23 m) to their deaths before horrified witnesses, media reports said, citing witnesses and San Diego officials.
After colliding, the two men plummeted onto the bluff above San Diego’s Black’s Beach on Saturday, “twirling, almost like a leaf falling,” witness Ryan Bloum, 25, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Officials did not identify the men, aged 61 and 43.
The lesser experienced pilot of the two made a hard turn into the path of the other, San Diego Lifeguard Lieutenant Rich Stropky told the Union-Tribune.
The lines of their canopies entangled. One of them stayed airborne for a moment, but both fell from about 35 feet (11 m) above the top of the bluff to 40 or 45 feet below, Stropky said.
“I heard a collision, some kind of sound, and I looked over and seen two people falling from the sky,” Madeline Henderson told KGTV television. “Just to witness that was incredibly terrifying.”
The Torrey Pines Gliderport has long been popular with hang gliders and paragliders who take off from a glassy slope at the edge of a steep bluff that drops down to the beach. The bluff face and ocean breezes provide ideal conditions for staying aloft.
While expressing sorrow at “the loss of two members of our close-knit soaring community,” the Torrey Pines Gliderport said it a statement it was “amongst the world’s safest soaring sites.”
An article published in 2015 by the World Journal of Emergency Medicine reported 18 paragliding deaths and 64 traumatic injuries out of 242,355 paragliding jumps from August 2004 to September 2011.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)