GEORGE NEWS - Local paragliding instructor and tandem pilot Khobi Bowden (52) is recovering well after she and a tandem passenger (28) sustained serious injuries on Saturday 7 March. Their glider collapsed while attempting to land in Sedgefield.
Speaking to the George Herald from her bed in Knysna Life Private Hospital, Bowden said she is doing well under the circumstances and she plans to use her time in bed constructively.
"I'm going to spend my time in bed studying Afrikaans and French - it's about time. The staff here in Knysna are excellent but I'll hopefully be moved to a rehab centre in George soon," Bowden said.
Initially it was thought that both Bowden and her passenger had sustained back and pelvic injuries, but it was later established that neither incurred any back injuries.
When ER24 paramedics arrived at the scene, both patients were conscious. They were stabilised on scene and transported to hospital. The passenger, a man from Cape Town, has since been discharged.
Sudden weather change
Bowden's partner, Jan Minnaar, said that Bowden and her passenger were flying with other local paragliding pilots when the wind suddenly changed direction and started gusting at about 42km/h.
"The temperature also increased rapidly, which caused turbulence and very rough conditions. Khobi flew out to land and was about 60m from the ground when her glider suffered a full frontal collapse. She tried to deploy her reserve parachute, but unfortunately they were too low and there wasn't enough time for it to deploy. They dropped to the ground from about 60m," he said.
Other pilots who flew that day confirmed that conditions changed very suddenly and everyone landed as soon as they could. Bowden, a member of the SA paragliding team and five times Protea pilot, has been flying since 2001, while Minnaar first pulled up a paraglider 29 years ago, in 1991.
Their paragliding school in Wilderness, Cloudbase Paragliding, has been running successfully for 27 years. In an article about the accident on SA Hang and Paragliding Association's (Sahpa's) website, it is stressed that paragliding essentially remains a safe sport, but as in all adventure activities, accidents can happen.
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