'Silly mistake' could have killed me: hang glider pilot

A hang glider pilot who fell 30m and nearly crashed into power lines says a silly mistake nearly cost him his life.

Christchurch labourer Reece Fisher, 25, broke his femur, collarbone and two ribs when his hang glider hit the ground and slid along a paddock at 35km/h last Friday.

Mr Fisher was one of seven advanced hang glider pilots who launched off a hill at Governors Bay in Canterbury.

The group was making the most of the "exceptional weather conditions" before finishing in their main landing paddock.

But before the flight Mr Fisher said he noticed that a cord which allows the pilot to adjust wing performance and handling was tangled around the wheel.

"It had happened before but it had sorted itself out. There was no problems with it so I didn't think anything of it. I should've checked it thoroughly before I had taken off. It was a silly mistake that could've killed me. It was scary. I am lucky to be alive," he said from his Christchurch Hospital bed yesterday.

Mr Fisher said he was in the air for more than an hour before he struck trouble - five minutes before he crash landed.

"It was a really nice, smooth flight. I decided to pull on the cord to try and untangle it. It got harder and harder to turn the hang glider into the wind. I couldn't untangle the rope so I gave up.

"I made my last turn and tried to steer away from power lines but a gust of wind changed my flight direction and I was heading straight for them. I was focused on trying to land safely.

"Five hang gliders had already landed. I don't remember a lot when I hit the ground. I was told afterwards I was going in and out of consciousness and I had crashed in the paddock before the power lines. I remember turning up to hospital in a helicopter," he said.

Mr Fisher, who has been hang gliding for six-and-a-half years, said he had landed sideways on his left leg.

"It will take at least six weeks before I am mobile again. I won't be flying again for a while. I will just take small beginning and intermediate steps before I fly with the advanced group again.

Hang gliding safety officer Cris Lawry said the accident was unusual and quite rare.

"You usually have a few hard landings but nothing this serious. An internal investigation will be conducted into the cause of the accident," he said.

- By Samantha McPherson of The Star

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