Second hang glider accident after takeoff from Mount Diablo

Man critically injured Sunday after crash at Concord elementary school

Nature is unpredictable, noted Dan Stefanisko, supervising ranger at Mt. Diablo State Park, which is why hang gliding and paragliding are limited. Two men crashed this week after taking off from the mountain.

"There's a special event permit for a club called Wings of Rogallo," said Stefanisko. "They have a permit for their members to fly. They pay a special event fee to be able to do that."

The gliders jump off from a high spot on Mount Diablo, which has an elevation of 3,849 feet.

"There are two takeoff points allowed on the mountain, and there are four different landing areas," Stefanisko explained.

Wednesday's mishap, when a 47-year-old male paraglider crashed near Juniper Campground just below the Summit, was only one of two accidents Stefanisko has seen in his seven years at the park. Although he noted that every couple of months someone will land at the wrong spot.

Then yesterday a 49-year-old man took off from Mount Diablo and ended up crashing in the school yard of Mountain View Elementary in Concord.

"Usually if the wind changes or something they'll land someplace else that they're not supposed to land," Stefanisko said. "If they have emergency landings they're supposed to notify the ranger staff that they've have an unauthorized landing."

He said that Wednesday's crash was called in to the state park's dispatch center in Monterey and relayed to them.

"We responded and stabilized the patient," he recalled. "Our dispatch center called the fire department and CalStar."

Firefighters from the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District soon arrived, and the rescuers worked with ropes to pull the patient up the steep hill to the waiting helicopter. The victim was transported to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek.

"He was conscious and breathing," said Fire District Battalion Chief Jack Barton. "He had survivable injuries."

Firefighter received the call shortly before 2 p.m., said Barton.

"It was pretty windy up there, gusty winds," he observed. "Paragliders have to be careful on windy days. It was pretty unpredictable."

The Wings of Rogallo hang gliding club has two sites it uses in the East Bay besides Mount Diablo: Mission Ridge in Fremont and Ed Levin Park in Milpitas.

Mount Diablo is more difficult because of the terrain and the wind currents, Stefanisko said. This is why only members of the Wings of Ragallo are approved to hang glide or paraglide on the mountain.

The hang glider who crashed yesterday in the school yard suffered major head injuries and is in critical condition, said a Concord police lieutenant. He was also a member of Wings of Ragallo.

The crash occurred at about 3:20 p.m. at Mountain View Elementary School, located at 1705 Thornwood Drive, Concord police Lt. Steve Dyer said.

Two witnesses who were at the school said they saw the hang glider circling a field on campus. He was apparently looking for somewhere to land when he suddenly dropped about 30 feet to the ground and landed on an asphalt walkway that surrounds the field, Dyer said.

The hang glider, a resident of Lafayette, suffered major head injuries and was taken to John Muir Medical Center where he remained in critical condition as of 5 p.m., according to Dyer.

Investigators believe the man took off by himself from Mount Diablo on the non-motorized hang glider vehicle. He was wearing a helmet and had a parachute, but it was not deployed before the crash, Dyer said. Authorities have not determined the cause of the crash, he said.

--Bay City News Service contributed to this report.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Davis Straub
a resident of Danville
on Mar 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Thanks for explaining the fact that hang gliding and paragliding are allowed on Mt. Diablo under restrictions that take into considering the pilot's rating (issued by examiners from the United States Hang gliding and Paragliding Association, under regulations promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration). The restrictions in place at Mt. Diablo are non unusual for our flying sites found on public lands. They are there to keep both pilots and the public as safe as possible.

The USHPA provides site insurance and every member covered with third party liability insurance to deal with any damage that pilots may cause to the public.

Just to be clear, we run off the hill (not jump.) We have to run down the hill fast enough to get the wing flying.

While nature is sort of unpredictable, after over 4,000 hang gliding flights (one of 407 miles) I can tell you that the pilot has a pretty good idea of what nature is up to, but not always. Sometimes you'll just want to land where ever you can, to be safe.

Thanks again.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by psmacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Mar 29, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I wonder if I saw the same man....or another glider?

I was driving NORTH on Ygnacio Valley Blvd at about 3:30-3:45 PM on Sunday. I had just left the area of houses in Walnut Creek and headed up the steep hill, with grassland valley on both sides of the road, in the area of Lime Ridge Regional Open Space and way before the area of Cal State Hayward Univ at Contra Costa.
I was actually startled and shocked to see a white V-wing shaped glider pass over head and over Ygnacio Valley Blvd in front of me at about 900 feet high (just a guess) and head down that valley. My passenger pointed it out to me. I had never ever seen any hang gliders in that area before.
I was wondering where he was going to land it? But he didn't seem to be in the process of landing at all at that point.

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