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For the week of August 6 - 12, 2003


paragliders crash

Two victims flown by Life Flight to Boise

"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

Express Staff Writer

A paraglider pilot and tandem passenger were flown to a Boise hospital Monday afternoon after crashing near the top of Bald Mountain.

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 Falls.

"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.



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