Investigation continues following fatal paraglider crash in La J - The CW San Diego - News 8

Investigation continues following fatal paraglider crash in La Jolla

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LA JOLLA (NEWS 8/CNS) - Torrey Pines Gliderport officials spoke out this weekend about a deadly mid-air collision between two paragliders as investigations continued into the accident near a La Jolla beach.The medical examiner also identified the two men killed in Saturday's crash.

It happened around 2:40 p.m. Saturday not far from the Torrey Pines Gliderport. The victims, who were flying separately about 35 feet in the air, struck each other above a bluff, San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Rich Stropsky told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

On Sunday, the two victims were identified by the Medical Examiner's office as 43-year-old Glenn Bengtsson of Carlsbad and 61-year-old Raul Valerio of Laguna Hills.

Both gliders fell about 75 feet down the cliff face following the collision.

On Sunday, the paragliding community was still trying to come to grips with the tragedy of Saturday’s accident. Experienced paraglider pilots told News 8 these types of accidents are rare.

According to authorities at the gliderport, Valerio was a more experienced pilot with a P3 certification. Bengtsson was an experienced aviator pilot and was working on his advanced paragliding certification. 

Stropsky told the Union-Tribune the less experienced of the two pilots was flying south and made a sudden right turn directly into the other pilot's path. Their canopies became entangled, and they fell straight down onto the cliff before catching on a knoll, leaving them stranded.

Both pilots were reportedly familiar with the area and the Torrey Pines Gliderport.

As family and friends try to make sense of what happened, the medical examiner will work to determine the cause of each man’s death.

Gabriel Jebb with Torrey Pines Gliderport flight school shared the following statement with News 8:

Today we share our sorrow at the loss of two members of our close-knit soaring community. While each individual who engages in gliding of any kind understands the inherent dangers involved, and though the Torrey Pines Gliderport is amongst the world’s safest soaring sites, it is with heavy hearts that we mourn yesterday’s loss.

Currently, our investigative team (which has over 100 years of combined experience in gliding sports), as well as our local authorities (including the San Diego Police, Fire Departments, and the Medical Examiner’s Office) are reviewing the available data in order to assess what went wrong and why.

Once those investigations are complete, we will share our combined conclusions. Until then, we are unable to further comment on these on-going investigations.

In the interim, we ask that all celebrate the lives of the two individuals lost in today’s tragic accident and that you keep them, and their families, in your thoughts and prayers.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story indicated the 43-year-old victim was from Orange County and the 61-year-old was from San Diego. The Medical Examiner's report indicated the opposite was correct.

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