REGION — Tragedy struck Palomar Mountain on April 30 when a paragliding lesson went awry, sending both trainer and trainee plummeting to the ground, from approximately 30 feet up.
Santa Ana resident Tyler Langenfeld, was severely injured in the crash. He sustained several fractured bones, and is currently in undergoing multiple surgeries at Palomar Medical Hospital in Escondido.
Roberta Annis is Langenfeld’s sister. “Tyler had a 16-hour spine surgery on Saturday and following the surgery he remained intubated for 48 hours because he had developed pneumonia,” she said. “The breathing tube was finally removed on Tuesday, and now the doctors are treating the pneumonia with antibiotics.” Langenfeld’s complications don’t end there, though. “In addition, Tyler is receiving respiratory therapy,” Annis added. “They are trying to strengthen his lungs and get his temperature back to normal. Tyler is able to talk and eat, but he is still heavily sedated for the pain, so even simple tasks are difficult.”
Paragliding, for anyone who doesn’t know, is an adventure sport wherein the pilot sits inside a harness underneath a “kite,” and drifts along on air currents. It does not use a motor (that’s powered paragliding), and paragliders are not towed behind boats (that’s parasailing). It’s foot-launched, and some flights can last for hours.
Langenfeld was performing a solo flight accompanied by an instructor. There was a sudden lack of air in his kite that sent him to the ground. In more ideal circumstances, there are adjustments a pilot can make to compensate for the lack of air, but Langenfeld was too close to the ground, and did not have time to perform them. Too close to the ground, but far enough to sustain serious injury.
“Tyler has always been an outdoorsman,” Annis said. “He loves camping because as a family we took camping vacations every summer to the Florida keys and other areas in the south. “The entire family were quite active and outdoorsy. “Together, our family participated in a quite a few sporting activities,” Annis said. “As a teenager, Tyler was also an avid skateboarder and then as an adult, he started snow skiing, snow boarding, mountain biking, rock climbing and motorcycle racing. He worked on a pit crew for an off-road racing team that raced in Mexico and other places. Tyler has never been short on enthusiasm for sporting activities.”
Paragliding is an inherently dangerous sport, which is kind of the point. A report from the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA) listed nine fatalities in the United States, and one in France, in 2015 alone (there are an estimated 5,000 participants in the United States alone). But the wind can change on a dime, and while you can make educated guesses, it can change spontaneously.
Indeed, were it not for similar calculated risks, we’d still be driving three days across the country instead of taking a six-hour flight where you can enjoy a cocktail and a rom-com. So that’s not the issue.
“Wind is made of many components,” Jerome Daust explained. Daust owns and operates his own training business. “The larger scale flow from the pressure variation, thermal air currents, turbulence (terrain, other pilots … ), gust fronts, downdraft (air cooled above). For smoother air, one should avoid the rough part of the day.”
Daust says there’s a lot you can do to mitigate danger, but weather can be fickle, and there’s no certainty. “There may remain conditions causing a risk at any time,” he says. “Education is key to evaluating risk.”
At present, Langenfeld faces a long road to recovery. Whether or not he’ll be able to even work again is currently up in the air, as the extent of his injuries are not yet fully known. To make matters worse, Langenfeld was between insurance providers, having crashed during an introductory probation period at a new job.
Fortunately, sister Roberta Annis has taken it upon herself to harness the power of the internet, as well as the kindness of friends, family and empathetic strangers. She had organized a GoFundMe page to collect donations to help offset Langenfeld’s considerable medical expenses. The page’s campaign goal, which is set at $200,000, is off to a good start. You can find, keep watch on and donate at www.gofundme.com/bbm98-support-for-tyler.