Hang glider rescued from crash on Salt Spring Island

Hang glider rescued from crash on Salt Spring Island
(Salt Spring Search and Rescue)

First responders on Salt Spring Island had their hands full on Monday after a hang glider crashed into a tree, and was briefly entangled upside down.

Salt Spring Search and Rescue (SAR) manager Jason Grindler says the team was called to Mt. Bruce around 1:30 p.m. for a report of a crashed hang glider.

“It’s a very common paraglider and hang glider launch location,” he said.

Grindler says the hang glider was with a group of other hang gliders when he felt his glider pull to the side shortly after takeoff.

“He launched from the peak and shortly thereafter he felt a pull to the right-hand side and ended up about 60 to 70 feet [18 metres to 21 metres] up a tree, approximately 100 metres to the southeast of the top of Mt. Bruce.”

His friends called in the crash, and Salt Spring SAR, the Salt Spring Island Fire Department and BC Emergency Health Services paramedics responded to the incident.

Firefighters were the first to arrive and located the man stuck in the tree. His hang glider ropes and cords had entangled him in some branches, and for a period of time, he was stuck upside down.

(Salt Spring Search and Rescue)

“The biggest concern with this sort of call is something called ‘ascension trauma,'” said Grindler.

“When you’re in a harness sort of suspended for a long period of time it can cause constriction of major limbs, leading to a build up of toxins,” he said. “That can cause a sudden rush of these things when taking the harness off, causing possible cardiac issues.”

The search and rescue team called in an arborist on Salt Spring to help assess how to best extract the trapped hang glider.

Fortunately, the arborist was a former volunteer with Salt Spring SAR and the local fire department, so they were able to easily communicate a plan, according to Grindler.

Search members helped free the man from the tree, then lowered him down to a staging ground below the tree with the use of a pulley.

“Once on the ground, I did an immediate assessment for potential suspension harness trauma and related stresses and symptoms,” said Grindler.

Fortunately, part way through being trapped, the hang glider was able to step on a branch and shift his weight, so he was no longer suspended upside down.

Once at the lower staging ground, a team of four volunteers used a double rope system to pull the man up the cliffside, where paramedics were waiting to take him to hospital.

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“Fortunately, all in all there wasn’t any significant deterioration and there was in fact some slight improvement,” said Grindler. “He was discharged to his friends, some of whom happened to be off-duty nurses.”

The hang glider was free to go the same day, but was instructed to call 911 if his symptoms worsened.

Grindler is grateful for the work paramedics and firefighters did, and said Monday’s rescue was a good illustration of how seamlessly all first responders work together on Salt Spring Island.

He says all the groups train together frequently, and that Monday’s rescue was a positive outcome, given the “high potential” for more serious injuries to occur.

(Salt Spring Search and Rescue)

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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