At some point in our lives, something comes along that catches our eye and draws us off on a trail of adventure. It may be something like hiking across the country, taking up surfing or as simple as riding a zip line. Some of these activities are quite safe, while others involve personal risk. I know that I’ve experienced a few risky endeavors in my life, and I’ve been fortunate to live to see another day. The older I got and the more responsibilities I took on caused me to scale back on the risk I was willing to take. I will say though that there was a lag time in the common sense aspect of my decision to be cautious. We can probably chalk that up to me being a guy. 🙂
That brings me around to an unfortunate indecent that happened by us on November 17. We were hanging out with our friends Linda, Jerry and Ron, discussing some landscaping that Linda and Jerry were going to be doing at their new mobile home they had bought last year. As we were talking, a powered parachute flew over us a few hundred feet up.
We see these craft flying up and down the beach all the time. On one hand, they look to be great fun. Ron even mentioned how much fun it be would to give one a whirl. On the flip side, they appear to be somewhat dangerous. The whole thing is nothing more than a parachute, motor, propeller, tank of gas and a pilot. This particular evening saw a steady breeze coming in off the ocean, and the pilot seemed to be struggling with controlling the craft. The throttle was up and down, causing us to wonder if he was having engine trouble. And breaking from what we normally see, he was flying inland over residential areas quite a ways, instead of staying out over the beach. Before long, we heard the engine slow down and we watched the paraglider descend towards the county beach park to our north. Next thing we heard was the sickening sound of electricity arcing, similar to when a transformer on a power pole explodes. We could see the sparks flying from a 1/4 mile away. There is a line of power poles extending along A1A that are a good 30 to 50 feet in the air, and we could see the fabric from the chute draped over the lines. Diana, Ron and I jumped on Ron’s golf cart and Jerry and Linda jumped on theirs and headed over to see what had happened.
From what we were told, the pilot cleared the wires, only to have the breeze blow him back into them. His gas tank caught on fire at some point and he fell 30 feet to the ground…landing next to the bike path. The young man with the grey shirt in the photo above stopped and smothered the flames with the only thing he had available; his truck mat. Fortunately, there is a Brevard County Fire and Rescue between us and the crash site, and they were there almost immediately. Jerry (blue shirt above) is a retired firefighter and Linda (yellow shorts) is a retired nurse. They noticed a young woman pacing around with a tiny baby. That person was the pilot’s wife. They ended up pulling up their golf cart so she could sit down, as she was distraught. They spent a good hour and a half with her, helping to calm her down.
Before long, a helicopter arrived from Orlando…landing on the 3rd green of the adjoining golf course. It took awhile to transfer the victim to the Life Flight, but soon he was on his way.
This is the Brevard County Rescue photo of the remains of the craft. Not a pretty picture, to say the least.
So, who was this person? Well, it turns out he was a young man from Ukraine who was living and working in Miami with his wife and 3 month old baby.
Dima was self employed, while his wife stayed home to care for their child. He received 3rd degree burns over 20% of his body, along with broken vertebrae and ribs and a punctured lung. He is lucky to be alive, but has a very difficult road ahead of him. Turns out it was the first time he flew his craft. Should he have been attempting this with a young family to care for? Most definitely not…but I’ll refer you to that lag time in common sense I spoke of earlier. The adventurer inside of him was most likely gnawing at him, and he gave the sport of powered paragliding a try. Unfortunately, it did not end well.
I think back to the times I took risks that could have ended this way. One time in particular stands out to me. I wiped out while slalom water skiing in one foot deep water while going 30 miles an hour. I jammed my shoulder hard into the sandy lake bottom, but ended up hurting only my pride. I could have easily broken my neck. Was that stupid of me? You bet it was. That doesn’t change the fact that Diana would have had a very difficult life caring for me, had I been severely injured…much like Dima’s wife is going to have for the foreseeable future. It’s that lucky-to-be-alive adventurer in us that is going to send them a little help via the Go Fund Me website that has been set up in their name. If this story touches your heart and you wish to donate, the page can be accessed by clicking HERE. If you are unable to donate, please send some good vibes or prayers their way, as this family is certainly going to need them.
Positive comments are appreciated and will be approved for publication. Until next time; please be safe out there, fellow adventurers.