Hang Gliding Accident Resulting in Injuries Near Glacier Point

August 09, 2012 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue

On Friday, August 3, 2012, at approximately 9 am, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call from bystanders at Glacier Point who witnessed a hang gliding accident approximately 400 feet below the Glacier Point lookout.  The bystanders reported that the subject took off from Glacier Point and then struck a tree with one of his wings, which caused him to crash into the sloping north-facing terrain below.  The subject landed in a grove of manzanita that was difficult to access. Emergency response units from both the Wawona and Valley districts of the park responded to the scene. Upon arrival, NPS medical and rescue personnel determined that the patient had sustained critical injuries and an expeditious extrication would be necessary. Due to the severity of the subject's injuries and the extended time it would take to prepare and execute a technical raise from his location, rescuers decided that a short-haul extrication would be most appropriate. Rescue personnel on scene cut the subject out of the hang glider, and, while providing emergency medical care to the subject, packaged him for the short-haul. A ranger was then brought in by short-haul, the subject was clipped into the short-haul rigging, and both were short-hauled to Ahwahnee Meadow, where the subject was transferred to Mercy Air Ambulance and flown to definitive care. The patient sustained a dislocated elbow, a mandibular fracture, and significant facial trauma. 

Hang glider and rescuers in brush

Through cooperative efforts, Yosemite National Park has granted permission to the Yosemite Hang Gliders Association (a chapter of the United States Hang Gliders Association) to conduct hang gliding activities solely from Glacier Point; one condition of the permit is that a qualified hang gliding monitor must be present. Launch times, landing zones, and pilot qualifications are highly regulated.

Within the last year and a half there have been two significant hang gliding accidents in the park. Both pilots sustained significant injuries.  The pilot in this accident was very experienced-it is important to remember that even those with years of experience can make critical mistakes. In any high-risk activity, maintaining awareness, avoiding complacency, and double-checking systems are as important for experts as they are for novices.

*Note: Specific details pertaining to the rescue operation were updated on August 19, 2012.

26 Comments Comments icon

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  3. February 17, 2014 at 07:48

    It should be noted that not a single fatality has ever occurred from hang gliding at Glacier Point, or anywhere in the park, since first being allowed in the early 1970s. This is an outstanding safety record considering the thousands and thousands of safe flights from the site.

  4. September 25, 2013 at 07:43

    Hang gliding and para gliding are the same sport? In what universe? Sounds like sour grapes to me.

  5. September 14, 2013 at 05:03

    To: David! I don't think para gliding and hang gliding are the same sports. They are different.They don't even look the same in the air. Besides they don't have a rigid frame and susceptible to turbulence and higher wind speeds. I would fly them only in calm to moderate weather conditions. Yosemite may not be the best place for paragliders :)

  6. August 25, 2012 at 09:36

    And David, you SHOULD sit at the back of the bus!

  7. Dan
    August 23, 2012 at 06:22

    I'm very glad he'll be making a full recovery - that looked horrible. With due respect, that was a pretty nose-high, weak launch, and with a premature jump into it - you can easily get in 3 additional steps there and go off with plenty of speed. It's quite steep, and quite a safe launch even in no wind, with proper technique. (I have 9 flights in at Yosemite myself).

  8. August 23, 2012 at 06:01

    @Scott, a woman lost the trail coming down the subdome and got stuck in a precarious position. She recognized her mistake and found a safe place to wait for help.

  9. August 19, 2012 at 11:55

    ...to be an experienced pilot doesn't mean that you are a good pilot too... the way of start is like a newby, without speed and in lack of control... luckily, he survived... all the best for the pilot

  10. August 19, 2012 at 09:45

    We've updated this incident summary to more accurately reflect the sequence of events during the rescue operation.

  11. August 18, 2012 at 03:51

    First off thank you all that had a hand in rescuing Dan,I have seen him at his home and he will be making a full recovery, Second to the commits made by David-Albuquerque ,,,I find it disgusting that you used this time and spot to lie about something that make you mad, now the general public may beleve that what you have said is true or fact,,but you and any pilot will know that they are far from the same sport,,,so far that Paragliders should not even been a part of the USHGA ,they are in no way any thing like the same wing, and there is no safe spot there to launch a para glider from ever? Now if you want to say that a para glider is the exact same sport as base jumping, now then that would be 100% true statement, if the base jumpers have there own magazine then please go join them and get out of our group,,thank you

  12. August 18, 2012 at 01:15

    I watched the video over and over. The wing was barely flying (left side wire only just went tight) as he went airborne. We cannot see what obstacles are straight ahead because of the camera angle. So the reason why did he not pull in on the bar for more speed and correct to fly straight is hidden from view. Are there trees out front that had to be avoided?

  13. August 17, 2012 at 10:24

    Nose high, right wing a little high. Pilot error clearly. I've made over 60 launches at Glacier and if you dive away from launch you have no problems. He may have been experienced but doesn't look like he was fimiliar with the Point.

  14. August 17, 2012 at 09:59

    Dave...if they are the exact same sport then why did the para community make such a big effort to change the name of the USHGA to the USHPA a decade ago? This is not a matter of equal rights but of experienced judgment...yours is in question on this matter.

  15. August 17, 2012 at 09:45

    My mistake... hopping into the glider contributed to the glider turning a little on takeoff and put the pilot on the crash course. You can see the pilot trying to correct it in the video but didn't have time. A better run could have fixed this. Maybe this will also call some attention to the site needing to be cleared a little to give future pilots a wider margin of error.

  16. August 17, 2012 at 09:39

    My mistake... hopping into the glider contributed to the glider turning a little on takeoff and put the pilot on the crash course. You can see the pilot trying to correct it in the video but didn't have time. A better run could have fixed this. Maybe this will call some attention to the site needing to be cleared a little to give future pilots a wider margin of error as well.

  17. August 17, 2012 at 09:22

    The pilot made a fairly strong launch run but also made the common mistake of not running the glider off the hill and instead hopping on it. He got away with that though and it wasn't a factor in the crash. He seemed to have control of the glider and didn't make any evasive attempts to avoid the dead snag so I'm just assuming that he simply didn't see it? https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=408846695830285

  18. August 17, 2012 at 04:09

    Flew this site in 1975. It is one of the most difficult launch sites due to a no wind take-off, elevation, and slope launch.

  19. August 16, 2012 at 09:42

    First I hope pilot makes a full recovery. Secondly I have this reply for, David the disgruntled Paraglider pilot who states that Hang gliding and Paragliding are exactly the same sport.They are not the same sport. The launch criteria is completely different, and there is no place at Glacier point where a paraglider pilot could safely inflate in a light to no wind launch. (below the rock house at Glacier Point is the only place given as a launch location in Yosemite stated on the permit) And to try and mislead the public with your false statement because you are upset and have an agenda is really DISGUSTING. It would be just like saying sailplanes are the same as hang gliders. Misleading and a lie when you are making that statement to the public and know it is not true,

  20. August 16, 2012 at 08:36

    The pilot should choose a strong-fast run like the ones on zero wind conditions

  21. Jim
    August 16, 2012 at 08:24

    Involved Rescuer, Thank you for all you and your crew did and do. Your efforts are very appreciated and never thanked enough.

  22. August 16, 2012 at 12:53

    We also say a ranger taking a person out on horse that day around Little Yosemite Valley, so 8/3 seemed like a busy day. Wanted to say thanks to all the S&R / Rangers for your efforts. Glad to know you are there if we need it.

  23. August 16, 2012 at 12:40

    We saw the S&R earlier that day (8/3) while on the Mist Trail going up to HD. Later that day we saw a helicopter above Sub-dome. However, we've been trying to find out and have yet to see anything posted. Was there a S&R effort on Half Dome later that day?

  24. August 16, 2012 at 08:20

    I find it disgusting that Yosemite national park is allowed to perpetuate it's discriminatory policies, which allows Hang gliding but bans paragliding. we are the exact same sport. It's 2012, equal rights arrived a long time ago, just not in the Yosemite valley. Are the African Americans forced to ride in the back of the bus there still too?

  25. August 14, 2012 at 09:37

    Didn't set his nose angle propely before launch.

  26. August 13, 2012 at 07:40

    As an individual involved with this rescue, I feel this account is somewhat misleading. Several rescuers and medical personnel where on scene with the patient for at least 20-30 minutes before the short haul occurred. The patient was fully packaged in a litter and ready to be lifted before the ranger was brought in via short haul. Additionally the hang glider was removed from the immediate vicinity to prevent it from catching to much rotor wash. This account makes it sound like the ranger who was short hauled in cut the patient out of the hang glider. No issues with anything else. No critic intended; just want to make sure the account is accurate. Thank you for the post.

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Last updated: August 19, 2012

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