Hang gliding tragedy in New Zealand demonstrates the paradox of this extreme sport

We were very sorry this morning to hear of the hang gliding tragedy that resulted in the deaths of two men in a tandem hang glider which crashed near Queenstown earlier today. But it is the danger of this sport which sits along side the beauty of flying a hang glider which is the paradox of this (and we suggest many) extreme sports. Our thanks to Will Hine and Clio Francis of stuff.co.nz for bringing us this story.

‘The fatal flight took off from an area known as The Knoll on the Remarkables this morning and was piloted by an Argentinian Gerardo Bean who was working for the adventure company Skytrek. The passenger was named by police as Andrew Michael Scotland, a volunteer firefighter from Waipu, 41km southeast of Whangarei.

Mr Scotland had been in Queenstown at a fire safety officers’ conference, he had stayed behind in the tourist town after the conference, along with four others, specifically to take part in the morning’s flight. At about 10.15am the hang glider crashed in Kelvin Heights, a southern suburb of Queenstown. Mr Bean died on impact along with his passenger, Mr Scotland.

Skytrek specialises in guided hang-gliding, allowing tourists to fly with an experienced pilot. According to Skytrek’s website, the company was established in 1992 and has flown more than 39,000 customers. A Civil Aviation Authority investigator was on his way to Queenstown to investigate. There were five witnesses to the crash.

CRASH SITE: Police and firefighters prepare to remove the bodies of two people who died in a hang glider crash near Queenstown this morning.

Compare this tragic scene with the fabulous experience demonstrated in the video from Airadventures which shows a promotional video for www.riohanggliding.com of hang gliding at Sao Conrado in Rio de Janeiro which is probably the world’s most beautiful place for hang gliding and has some of the best atmospheric conditions all year round. The take off area is the “Pedra Bonita” (The Pretty Rock), at a height of 1,700 feet (520 meters). The route flies you over a tropical forest called the Tijuca National Park and over the mansions of Rio’s rich and famous before landing on the sand at Sao Conrado’s “Pepino” Beach.

This juxtaposition of the beauty and fear – the paradox – is what seemingly is the great attraction of extreme sports – both for participants who actually experience the adrenaline rush and for spectators who, not surprisingly are watching, waiting and maybe even hoping to see something spectacular. A somewhat macabre thought about the human psyche.

Our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of both Gerardo Bean and Andrew Scotland.

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