Florida resident Chris Gurksy’s hang gliding adventure in Switzerland turned into a terrifying ordeal the moment he realized the pilot forgot to attach his harness to the aircraft.
For well over two minutes, Mr. Gursky had to clutch the metal hang glider bar, often with just one arm, as the aircraft sailed off the side of a 4,000-foot mountainside above the town of Interlaken. Mr. Gursky’s harrowing flight was captured on video, which went viral on YouTube and the international news.
“My first time Hang Gliding turned into a near death experience as my safety harness was never hooked to the Glider,” Mr. Gursky, an auto parts store manager from central Florida says in the video captioning. “For 2 Min. 14 seconds I had to hang on for my life!”
Seconds after he and the pilot realized the grave error, the pilot attempted to land the aircraft but struggled to control it with Mr. Gursky hanging onto the aircraft for dear life. Missing the first landing attempt, the hang glider sails above tree tops and farms while the land below shrinks.
For two minutes, Mr. Gursky continually slips as his grip weakens and he struggles to find something to latch onto with his right hand, clutching the pilot’s pants leg in the last few moments of the flight.
“I ended up holding onto the bar with the left hand and the lower part of his leg with the right when we were nearing the ground. I looked down to see my feet hit first, which ripped me off at about 45 mph as it was a hot landing and I was under the landing gear.”
Mr. Gursky says the strain of holding onto the aircraft tore the bicep tendons in his left arm. The impact of his hard landing also shattered his wrist. Mr. Gursky had to have a titanium plate set into his wrist with seven screws.
Despite his brush with death, Mr. Gursky expressed some gratitude to the pilot for the way he handled the emergency after realizing his error.
“While the pilot made a critical error in our pre-flight setup by not attaching me to the glider, he did all he could to get me to the ground as quickly as possible, grabbing onto my harness and flying with one hand.”
“I will go hang gliding again as I did not get to enjoy my first flight,” he wrote in the YouTube video.
The president of the Swiss Hang Gliding Association told the Swiss news site The Local that he found the error “horrifying.”
“This is such a basic mistake,” Christian Boppart said. “On the one hand, it’s tragic and then on the other hand, they were lucky. It could have been much worse.”
Mr. Boppart said that the association would be speaking to the pilot involved in the incident but that any investigations would be carried out by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Aviation. The Local quoted another source who reported the pilot was still conducting tandem flights in the Interlaken area when “he should have lost his licence straight away.”