Paramotor crash CAA accident summary

The attached CAA accident summary highlights several important considerations for all powered flights:

  1. Every take off should include a plan for engine failure or reduced performance at any stage of the flight from the start of the run through climb out to a height that allows a safe landing. 
  2. If there is any fault or reduced performance discovered at any time then don't ignore it, take action to correct it. 
  3. If you haven't flown for a while then don't be too proud to ask a flying buddy to check what you are doing, check what your flight plan is and what you will do with an engine failure or other emergency. 
Summary? Don't trust your engine, ever.

CAA accident summary

After the Crash.

What happens next could be up to you.

Saving Grace

Luck is helpful and I certainly feel lucky to recently have dodged a bullet that could have left me paralyzed. I had an accident paragliding on 3/9/16 resulting in a fractured T12 TO L2 vertebrae with L1 vertebrae being unstable causing spinal cord compression that required surgery to stabilize it and I left hospital on the 8/9/16 with no neurology and able to walk. Without the proper management prior to arrival at hospital or whilst at hospital I would have had a very different outcome.

I was Lucky.

I was lucky that it happened in NZ where we have amazing emergency services; the ability to be air-lifted by specialist paramedics and managed in a hospital service with a Trauma service that offers care to the greatest of standards.

I was lucky to have a great group of fellow pilots around me at the time who had taken their time in the past to gain the knowledge and skills to manage a scenario such as the one I found my self the center of. It is the story of this part of my accident I wish to tell and in doing so thank those that were at the scene. Without their insight, skills and calm practical approach I could have been very, very unlucky!

For the purposes of this story what happened to cause my injury is somewhat irrelevant. I was paragliding, I had just launched at the Gondola in Christchurch. There was a group of speed flyers present accompanied by Asher and Blake. We all knew each other to a degree and now better than before. I certainly call them friends.

Bang I hit the ground. I am conscious, I landed bottom first, I have searing pain in my lower back radiating to my abdomen. I am lying on my left side in a recovery type position. I can move my legs and arms. My back feels odd and I just don’t want to move it so I tense my abdominal muscles to help keep my back still. I call out for help and Blake arrives.

He walks to me calm and collected, he asks me not too move and asks me how I am. I instantly feel in safe hands, no panic around me just a sense of some structure and calm. I explain my back hurts really bad, and feels odd that the pain comes round to my hips but I can move my legs and arms and feel them. He asks if I blacked out or think I hit my head. I say no to both. He asks if my neck is sore which again I say no.

I am certain my back is broken, it feels unstable and I think we should call a helicopter. Blake gets someone else to contact the emergency services and agrees we will need a helicopter but he wants to check me over and asks if this is OK. He asks that I just stay nice and still and he explains I am in a good safe position as I am in the recovery position at present. He knows by now I am conscious, breathing and talking - Airway and Breathing are good.

Blake proceeds to check my neck. I ask for my helmet off but there is no bleeding and he says he would rather leave it on as it’s helping support my head, and my neck is in a good position. I agree with him this is wise. My neck isn’t tender but he wants me to try not moving it  - C spine is considered but in the position is adequately managed, given the situation. He checks my back gently and it is excruciatingly sore in lower back. He doesn’t push hard just gently so I can advise him the location of the problem rather than trying to make it hurt. He feels my abdomen, which is soft.  He pushes gently on my pelvis, which causes pain in my back but feels stable. He checks my arms and legs gently for deformity and any blood and checks I can feel them and they are not sore.  My ankle on the right is a bit sore but I can move it. He checks my pulse at my wrist, which is normal.  There’s no evidence of bleeding anywhere, my circulation is stable.

He communicates to the others that I need to stay where I am, that I have likely broken my back, my pelvis is sore but seems to be stable, and my ankle is sore but no obvious deformity and I can move it. 

Whilst this is ongoing others make sure my paraglider is tidied up and Blake then removes the glider from the harness to prevent risk of further injury. This process was done succinctly, calmly and without moving me in anyway. Each step was clearly explained to me.

Asher is talking to me at the same time keeping the conversation light and simple allowing me some distraction from the pain and a way to help me not panic.

The Helicopter and emergency services are on their way I am told. Asher sits near my head and talks to me. The pain is getting worse and I start to hyper ventilate. He asks me to try and slow my breathing down but recognizes the pain must be bad. He asks me to take some nice deep breathes and to try focus on something simple. He knows I am married and asks me to try just rolling my wedding band with my other hand which is soothing and simple and helps me relax a bit.

A friend and pilot James is present and I advise them where my car keys are. James will kindly take my car and kit back home and let my wife know what is happening. They offer to call her there and then but I ask if James can do this in person and when I am on the way to hospital. They keep my wallet in my harness and get my phone out to have with me.

I hear in the background they are thinking about where the helicopter will land and I am presuming they have made the Gondola staff aware of what is happening. I also hear that they have accounted for all pilots that were flying, have made sure no one else is taking off and that everyone else has landed given the fact the helicopter will be on its way.

Blake and Asher then look to see what they can do to prepare for when the paramedics arrive. They look to undo some of the buckles on the harness, though I had already undone these myself (I probably shouldn’t have), just before Blake arrived on scene. 

Then the helicopter arrives the hum, hum, hum, of reassurance. However this is a dangerous time. There are bystanders waving at the helicopter, which is not useful and potentially can cause confusion and danger for the Helicopter pilot.  Blake and Asher and some of the other speed flyers ask the people to stop waving. The Heli drops off the paramedic and scoop. Instead of throwing their hands up in relief and leaving the paramedics to it Blake gives a concise hand over. 

The paramedics check me over as Blake had, then decide on how best to get me onto the scoop. I am on my left side, shoulder straps still on. HMMMMMM interesting. Instead of sudden movement there is some discussion. The paramedics looking for advice from Asher and Blake about the specific equipment they are dealing with, and which needs removing whilst managing my spine.

They free my right shoulder, that’s easy. Now they wonder about a gentle roll further to the left and to try and slide me out the harness. It quickly becomes obvious that it won’t work as with minimal movement I get a sensation of someone stroking my arse! Which no one admits too doing (I asked who was stroking my arse they all denied it). Then a wave of paraesthesia over my right buttock.  We decide this is not a good idea.

As a group we decide the scoop should be placed behind my back, then log roll me with the scoop onto my back and as I roll have someone guide my arm out of the harness shoulder strap. As my left arm is un-injured I can slide my arm through the shoulder strap as they roll me with the scoop onto my back. I am on my back on the board, no weird sensations in my butt anymore and I can wiggle my toes and feet (Great!)

I should say at this point they had offered me an IV line and drugs but I refused and just wanted to get in that chopper and on a board and be on my way and would personally rather know what was going on with my body whilst they did it. Just so no one thinks they were cruel and didn’t offer! Then the helicopter landed nearby and with the help of Blake, Asher and the others they lifted me into the Chopper and off we went.

This was probably 40 min from Injury to helicopter.

I was lucky because Blake and Asher didn’t rely on luck, they relied on previous training, level heads, calm and common sense.

I owe a lot to the Westpac helicopter, Christchurch ED, Orthopedic and Neurosurgical teams but I owe most to those who managed me in the most risky and dangerous environment in those first 40mins.

I can tell the story this way due to their approach, previous training, their outlook on life and their outlook on their sport to acknowledge that such training is of use and not just a tick box exercise.

So thank you Blake, thank you Asher and thank you to the others that helped.

You were my saving grace.

I hope people can learn from the amazing example you set that day.

Yours sincerely
Sam Bartholomew

PS I still think someone was stroking my Arse!

Swing Spitfire, Mirage and Hybrid

Safety notice for Swing Spitfire, Mirage and Hybrid

Swing report that "while in use one splice of an A-Mainline at the Mainline Lock turned loose. Thankfully the Pilot was unhurt." This notice applies to the Swing Spitfire, Mirage and Hybrid models.
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Swing further specify: "We precautionary ask every pilot to visually check their Miniwing before next flight.  You need to check the presence of the black safety-seam on the splice with all lines. Miniwings which may be affected are the models “Spitfire” “Spitfire 2”, “Mirage” and “Hybrid” respectively. Serial number 50001–50208."
For more information, including detailed instructions for inspecting your miniwing, please refer to the complete Safety notice from Swing.

AustriAlpin COBRA® buckles

AustriAlpin COBRA® buckles

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AustriAlpin report that a very small fraction (0.0000005%) of their COBRA buckles may have insufficiently pressed rivets. These buckles are used in a wide variety of harnesses - check your buckles to see if they are designed "COBRA".
For detailed instructions and photographs showing how to inspect your buckles please review the AustriAlpin courtesy safety notice.
If you find a problem, contact your harness dealer.

PG Harness Buckles

DHV have issued the following safety note:

Safety notice for paraglider harnesses equipped with Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles in the chest strap.

Link to DHV Safety Note