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New Zealand

Elderly tourist badly hurt in paragliding accident  Feb 02, 2009

A man is in a critical condition after being dragged 20m down a slope by a paraglider in Queenstown yesterday.

A 74-year-old British man was flown to Dunedin Hospital last night with serious head injuries after falling about 20m on rocks while attempting to take off on a commercial paragliding flight above Queenstown.

His condition was described by St John as being critical last night, with extensive facial lacerations and concussion.

St John Central Otago district operation manager Peter Grayland said an ambulance was called about 1.30pm to the accident on Bobs Peak, above Queenstown.

Staff used the gondola to reach the man and they were able to extricate him with the help of three other pilots, he said.

They then used the gondola to bring the injured man back to a waiting ambulance down the hill, and he was taken to hospital for treatment.

G Force spokesman Guy McIntyre said three pilots, including the pilot involved, accompanied the man to Lakes District Hospital with his wife.

The man tripped and fell during takeoff before the paraglider was fully inflated and enough speed had been gained to fly, he said. "The pilot semi-flew and dragged him along," he said. "The pilot did everything he could."

The man fell within the weight safety requirements but was heavier than the pilot, he said.

The pilot was unharmed and the equipment was undamaged, including the man's helmet.

G Force Paragliding is the "rebranded" Queenstown Commercial Paragliding Ltd, which was involved in an incident in 2001 when a 12-year-old Christchurch schoolgirl was left in a critical condition after slipping out of her tandem harness and plunging to the steep ground below.

Mr McIntyre said a report into the incident would be lodged with the Southern Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.

G Force pilot Thomas Rold said flights had been called off for the rest of the day but that was because of high winds rather than the accident.

"The pilot is obviously really shaken up as we all are," he said. "So we wouldn't mind a bit of a break."

Another pilot, who preferred not to be named, helped retrieve the man after the fall. He said the victim was conscious when ambulance personnel arrived.

Police are investigating the incident.

Elderly tourist badly hurt in paragliding accident
The G-Force Paragliding office at the top of the Skyline in Queenstown / Photograph by Ben Heather

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