Paraglider loses control, falls to cliff bottom

Mishap on Woodrat Mountain puts him in hospital; fire chief says he seemed 'stable'

APPLEGATE — A 45-year-old paraglider pilot lost control of his chute just after takeoff Thursday, resulting in a drop of nearly 100 feet that put him at the bottom of a cliff on Woodrat Mountain in the Applegate.

Details about the man's injuries weren't released, but Applegate Valley Fire District No. 9 officials said the outcome could have been a lot worse.

"It's not as bad as some others we've had," said Brett Fillis, District No. 9 fire chief. "We have a few of these a year."

The man's name was not available Friday. Capt. Greg Gilbert reported that the man is from Texas.

Fire officials reported Applegate Fire's Technical Rescue team headed to the top of Woodrat Mountain at 6:30 p.m. for a rope rescue, following a 911 call about a fall. The paraglider apparently lost control of his chute just after takeoff for unknown reasons. Fillis said takeoff is usually the most dangerous part of a flight.

"Usually once they're up and airborne it's not an issue," he said.

The man fell through trees and rocks and crashed at the bottom of the cliff.

The initial 911 call reported the man was unconscious, but he had regained consciousness by the time crews arrived. Emergency crews packed the man into a rescue stretcher — also called a Stokes litter — and used a technical rope system to haul him up the mountain to the top.

From there, a Mercy Flights helicopter transported him to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

No update on his condition was available Friday, but Fillis said the man was talking and alert, and that he seemed "pretty stable."

"Which doesn't mean you're not sore in a whole bunch of spots," he said.

Gilbert added a lot of the work was precautionary.

Woodrat Mountain is a well-known jump site for paragliders and other extreme sports enthusiasts gearing up for the annual Rat Race, a June 23-29 paragliding competition that boasts hundreds of entries.

"The last few days, including today and tomorrow, is kind of their practice time," Fillis said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.


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