Well as the UK season 'proper' may soon be approaching thought I would post my recent adventure. Hopefully as a warning and a 'tell and let others learn' exercise. Apologies for the poor grammar and no doubt wandering tale...it's my stile and underscored with latnight pain meds.
Saturday 21st January. Perfect flying day clear skies, wind speed steady 2-3mph southerly and the sun is out. First flight 70min cross country launch from local field 5 min drive from house. Great flight and land about noon meet up with flying buddy we re-launch about 1ish another 60min cross country last 10 min bit of tree kicking. I'm on a Zenith with Moster 185 hanging under a Roadster II 26. With 150+ hours on Paramotor and CP licence on Paragliding since 2013.
We are above our local open scrub land so as usual before landing we finish with 10 min of low level 10-20 foot of slaloming around trees and bushes. So as I head towards tree line think ohh better get some more height to clear, about to turn left to circle out to fly over and set up approach for landing into our usual field. I notice my wing buddy to my left so change my turn to the right I've got plenty of time and space...I then see a break in the tree line to my right so think I will abort full turn and just head thru there...plenty of space open fields beyond.
I thought I knew this area like the back of my hand as I turn into the gap i'm heading into low sun glare now 30-40 foot as I come out the sun glare there right at face level is the dreaded 3 phase 11,000 volt string of death in a millisecond it all becomes instinct I full throttle in an attempt to clear within a half second I know that's not going to happen so I keep full throttle and pull full right wingtip steering. I swear on my life as time slows to a standstill as I am now turning hard almost fully horizontal I need to open my legs wide as I hit the apex of the turn with both legs wide open my left leg now above the lines right leg below, I full expect my harness seat and arse to be making contact with the outer line and hope to just kiss and avoid shorting over two lines...don't make contact and think Ive gotten away with that. Now clear I try to correct with left steering but within a second Ive pretty much spun and maybe pendulumed into the ground....of all the acres of scrub and heather around I manage to hit the only 1 meter wide strip of solid tarmac footpath for miles around.
I hit the ground hard and I grey out but don't black out, unfortunately!!!....I've hit my right side very hard spun over cartwheel style a couple of times now laying in a heap in a half seated position, 10 meters from my impact point trying to hold myself up out of a drainage ditch...I hear myself screaming...It doesn't sound like me. My wing buddy lands a short distance away and rushes over I blurt out 'AMBULANCE'.
15 mins pass I have my buddy help me out my harness the engine is still running, prop has gone obviously, so has throttle handle and cable ripped out of my right hand and disintegrated on impact, he needs to pull the spark plug to kill the engine....some dog walkers and mountain bikers turn up offering assistance...we hear the ambulance come and go circuling the area trying to find a way into the field. I'm going into shock.
Time drags my adrenaline level wains the pain rises. I'm shouting at the dog walkers and cyclists to walk out to the road to guide in the ambulance. We then hear the whump, whump, whump of the air ambulance coming in. It lands only 15 meters from me...luckily my wing buddy has the foresite to role his wing up and now instructs bystanders to do same with mine or we could have had a messy wing round helicopter prop incident. The paramedics jump out and after a quick chat cut me out of my flying suit and several layers of thermal clothing. I'm now laying ball naked in a field with a thin red blanket for modesty. Injuries = 2 inch cut above right eye deep and bleeding. Dislocated right shoulder. Broken right arm with open fracture and 1 inch of bone sticking out thru flying suit at elbow. Busted pelvis will turn out to have 10 individual fracture known as an 'open book' fracture. A load of soft tissue damage to right leg.
It turns out that they don't carry a doctor on the air ambulance it's just for evacuation the doctor is normally on the ground, we wait for road ambulance guys to foot walk into area...by the time they get here I've gone into shock and a touch of hypothermia. They try all veins but can't get a line in for morphine...I only get gas & air they re set my shoulder there on the field 'to make me more comfortable' then proceed to straighten me out and lift me onto a split stretcher screaming all the way onto the helicopter. 50 min from initial impact to lift off en route to hospital.
I get right arm set wired and pinned surgery the next day but have to wait a week for the consultant to return from holiday before I get the pelvic surgery. Yes they could have brought another consultant in but due to the nature of my injuries was advised to wait for the pelvic specialist.
18 days in hospital fought to get home so lied about my pain level and kept a frozen smile thru all the zimmer frame and stair climbing crutch work classes now on 90% horizontal bed/sofa rest. I've now managed to get vertical and mobile on two elbow crutches but with max 20% weight baring on right leg...there is a lot of mechano and some scary big screws now holding my pelvis together. Now thru the worst of it and can independently shower, dress , boil an egg and load box sets into the bluray. I'm ahead of the recovery curve apparently, more will be known regards long term prognosis after my clinical review on the 20th March I then get my physio plan. They say I will be off the crutches in 6 months...if bones have healed as expected then I will push to do it in 4 months...luckily I was very fit for a 53 year old so that has helped i've pulled myself off all the big pain meds and just work with Parcetamol daytime but yes Tramadol for quiet nighttime hours.
Lessons to be learned and advise in hindsight?
Be born lucky. They recon I hit concrete at 30-40 mph and consultant is amazed I didn't just snap my spine or have some internal organ damage given the impact damage to pelvis and evident down my right side.
The Zenith construction saved my life as I cartwheeled over the outer frame and arms took the load.
Full face chin helmet saved my life, yes cut above eye from frame of glasses but they had plastic lenses 'safety glasses' lens designed to pop out on impact.
Hanwag boots saved me from a shattered right foot...spend money on proper boots.
Always fly low level with not just wingtip in your hands but brake handles as well, if I could have come off the wingtip steering and instantly had breaks available I might have recovered better and flared into a hard landing, yes maybe still have busted something but not shattered things.
Complacancy hurts that lazy nip thru the break in the tree line nearly killed me.
Low sun glare is a shit.
Get injury insurance...I was made redundant at end of Dec new job was due to start in Feb so I crashed outwith any employment contract (check your employment contract some employers exclude injuries sustained if incurred doing 'hobbies' don't assume boss will pay you) the £73 & 10p benefit I get a week ain't covering much.
Fly with a wing buddy, yes dog walkers and cyclists turned up but many a time i've flown solo over wilderness cross country...yes I had my mobile handy in an easy reach pocket but could I rely on getting a signal.
We enjoy an exciting and sometimes dangerous sport and just when you think you are starting to master it, it bites you and sometimes hard.
When you check Notams maybe check the surgical consultants holiday rota at your nearest major surgery hospital. I spent a week of medieval torture getting 'rolled' every 4 hours to avoid bed sores.
Marry a understanding and supportive wife....wouldn't have gotten this far this quick without the 'better half'....love you Linsey...xx
Will I fly again?...not in 2017 and it depends how stable and resilient this pelvic surgery is, there's a lot of metal screws very close to major spinal nerves the thought of strapping several kilo of motor on my back and leaning forward from crouch to foot launch seems a long way off...and that occasional arse landing...eeek!!....trike?...maybe. Linsey is very supportive and understanding knows how much I enjoy flying...and turns out I have a high pain threshold so if I'm willing to suck it up...but she willl no longer be my first emergency telephone contact and I will need insurance up to the chin.
So all you guys fly safe and happy landings, enjoy 2017.
They say 'What doesn't kill us makes us stronger'....for sure.