SAN JACINTO: Woman suffers major injuries after crashing while speed-gliding

SAN JACINTO — A woman suffered major injuries and had to be rescued and airlifted from the side of a steep and rugged mountainous area near Soboba Paragliding and Speed Flying, Tuesday Mar. 6. The sports complex features paragliding and parasailing and is located at 255 Soboba Road, in an unincorporated area northeast of San Jacinto.

A Cal Fire Aviation Crew carries a seriously injured paraglider to a waiting ambulance after hoisting the woman from the side of Mount San Jacinto. Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents photo

Heavy winds, high speeds, and lack of experience were believed to be contributing factors in the crash, according to witnesses and rescuers at the scene of the accident.

One witness, a friend and acquaintance of the victim who requested to not be identified, explained the victim had been flying “speed-wings” at the location since last year.

“I’ve watched (the victim) since August and never seen her come so close to the ground before,” explained the man. “She hit the ground and bounced up, spun around in a circle, and then hit again.”

Emergency first responders were dispatched to a landing zone about 2000 feet below the facility’s highest launch point just before 11 a.m., after witnesses called 911 to report that a speed glider had smashed into the side of Mount San Jacinto below one of the sports complex’ launch points.

Sixteen firefighters from two engine companies and a Medic Squad responded to the scene of the accident, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire spokesperson April Newman explained in an incident report.

Within minutes of the dispatched call, deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s San Jacinto Police Station and Cal Fire/Riverside County firefighters began arriving in the area of Soboba Road, southeast of Gilman Springs Road. Rescue personnel and other officials were directed to the victim’s location several hundred feet up the mountain and a small, four-wheel drive, side-by-side utility vehicle was used to help ferry rescuers as well as their equipment as far up the mountain as possible.

Officials who hiked up to the victim’s location quickly determined the woman, who has not been publicly identified, had sustained “major, lower extremity and other injuries.” Based on the victim’s injuries, officials summoned Mercy Air and placed a rescue helicopter on standby for a possible life-flight.

Citizens used a four-wheel drive utility vehicle to help ferry rescuers and their equipment to where the victim was stranded. Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents photo

Based on where the victim crashed and was stranded on the steep mountainside, Cal Fire’s Copter H301, which is based out of Hemet/Ryan Airport’s Helitack Base, responded to the scene to perform a technical hoist/rescue of the seriously injured victim.

When Copter 301’s aviation crew arrived in the area they successfully extricated the seriously injured victim from the side of the mountain. After flying her down to the sport complex’ landing zone shortly before 1 p.m., the victim was transferred to a waiting AMR ground ambulance. AMR medics then rushed the victim to an area hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

Speed flying is a hybrid sport that combines elements of paragliding and parachuting. Like paragliding, speed flying is done by launching from a high slope with the wing overhead, already inflated by the incoming air. The parachutes that speed flyer’s use are similar to and look like a paraglider’s; however, they are smaller and designed with speed and performance in mind.

The main difference between paragliding and speed flying is that paragliding usually involves a longer, slower flight whereas speed flying involves much higher speeds and lower altitudes and is meant to create a fast, exhilarating ride – and speed gliders try often try to get as close to the terrain as possible.

“Paragliders like to fly high and go slow, but speed gliders like to go up to the top of a mountain and come down as fast as they can,” the victim’s unidentified friend explained.  “They like to get as close as they can to the mountain while they are coming down and sometimes the ground comes up a little faster than you think. I think that’s what happened to her when she hit the ground.”

“We’re having a big fly in at the end of the month, the witness continued, “and I don’t know if she was kind of stepping her game up a little bit for that maybe, but that’s what I’m thinking.”

As of last report, the victim remains hospitalized in very serious condition.

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Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents video

Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents video


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Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.

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