Two victims flown by Life Flight to
"In paragliding, and I don’t care how
experienced you are, you can pay a very harsh price if you make a mistake."
— ED SIMON, Ketchum mayor and
14-year veteran paraglider
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
A paraglider pilot and tandem passenger
were flown to a Boise hospital Monday afternoon after crashing near the top of
Authorities have not disclosed the
identities of the two crash victims, who were reported to be in stable condition
at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center on Tuesday. Both patients suffered head
and back injuries, said Ketchum Fire Chief Greg Schwab.
Schwab said the accident occurred near the
top of a popular out-of-bounds skiing area called Heaven, a sagebrush bowl on
Baldy’s northwest flank. Rescue crews were dispatched at 5:07 p.m.
"He’s an experienced pilot, and until we
get his statement—I understand he’s doing okay—we won’t know what happened,"
said Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon, a 14-year veteran paraglider pilot. "In
paragliding, and I don’t care how experienced you are, you can pay a very harsh
price if you make a mistake."
Chuck Smith, who owns Fly Sun Valley, a
local paragliding company, said Monday’s flight was an endeavor among friends
and was not a commercial paragliding trip.
"Other than that, there’s not much I can
tell you," he said.
In an interesting twist, the crash victims
may have benefited from U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s fund-raising visit
Monday afternoon to Blaine County.
St. Alphonsus Life Flight crews were
standing by at Wood River Regional Medical Center because of the vice
president’s visit and were able to respond quickly because of the unusual
proximity to Bald Mountain, said Ken Sheldon, Life Flight program manager and
chief flight paramedic. The nearest helicopter is typically stationed in Twin
"We happened to have our third aircraft up
there as a standby for Dick Cheney, with permission from Secret Service to pull
off if we were needed," Sheldon said. "We launched from the airport and had a
9-minute response time."
Sheldon said a second life flight was
called to aid both patients.
He also said the effort was further aided
because Life Flight crews met just last week with local emergency responders to
establish suitable landing sites throughout Blaine County. The summit of Bald
Mountain was one of the sites established and plugged into helicopter computers.
"It went very, very well, because everyone
knew exactly where we were responding and where we were landing," Sheldon said.
Schwab added that the experience of local
rescue crews helped with the rescue.
Monday’s incident was the second local
paragliding accident this year. On April 9, a 29-year-old pilot died after
spiraling out of the sky near Bald Mountain and into the Big Wood River.