A paragliding accident in Hualien County yesterday resulted in the death of a coach and left a passenger, who was a tourist from China, in serious condition, after their paraglider hit a power transmission line and crashed.
Firefighters in Hualien’s Wanrong Township (萬榮) rushed 57-year-old coach Wang Tien-ming (王田明) and the 25-year-old traveler, surnamed Tao (陶), to a local hospital after receiving an emergency call yesterday morning.
Wang was pronounced dead at the hospital, while Tao was conscious and able to speak, Wanrong Fire Department captain Hu Yu-hsi (胡友熙) said.
Medics found that Tao had fractured vertebrae and broken limbs, Hu added.
Tao said he is a student at Shanghai Fudan University and came to Taiwan with three Chinese friends for the Lunar New Year holiday.
There was a strong wind, and Tao and Wang soon found themselves dangling from a high-voltage transmission cable over a betel nut plantation in a hilly area.
Wang used his mobile phone to call for help and reported their location before cutting the ropes with some pliers, sending the two falling to the ground, Tao said.
The area was windy and foggy in the morning, “so maybe the pilot did not take adequate account of the distance and the paraglider got tangled up in electrical lines,” Hu said.
When rescuers arrived at the location, they could see the paraglider’s canopy, harnesses and ropes dangling from the electricity lines high up in the air, right next to an electricity tower, he said
Wang reportedly held a license for operating a tandem paraglider, was certified by the Chinese Taipei Aerosports Federation and won first place at a paragliding competition in 2010.
Acquaintances were quoted as saying that Wang had more than 15 years of paragliding experience and was considered one of the top paraglider pilots in Hualien.
However, media reports showed that he had been involved in an accident before.
In 2016, Wang took a Chinese female tourist flying, but their paraglider hit turbulence and they fell to the ground from 10m.
Wang was not seriously injured, but the woman broke several vertebrae. Her injuries had required a long hospitalization and she sued him for the NT$300,000 medical bill.
News reports quoted the woman as saying that Wang was irresponsible and refused to pay, even though he owned the paragliding company.
Wang got in trouble with the law in 2009 when he was sentenced to four years in prison for vote buying during his campaign as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate for Wanrong Township mayor, an election that he lost.
On his company’s website, Wang said that his firm was the only paragliding business in Hualien with licensed coaches and that flights cost NT$2,500 per person.
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