A paraglider instructor was killed in a tragic accident during a mid-air collision with a hang glider in Utah on Tuesday, cops said.
The two aircraft crashed around 5 p.m. near Salt Lake County Flight Park, a popular spot for non-powered aircraft to launch from a mountain slope and catch updrafts in the town of Draper, a suburb south of Salt Lake City.
The tandem paragliders and a single hang glider had both launched from the park and went down hard in the same area nearby, Draper Police Lt. Mike Elkins said Tuesday.
The pilot of the paraglider, 44-year-old Joshua Ellison, died before he could be taken to a hospital.
Neither of their identities was released.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation — police said conditions at the time were clear and mild and that Ellison was an experienced paraglider pilot with strong ties to the local sports community.
“Losing friends in the paragliding community is one of the most difficult things this sport brings,” fellow paragliding instructor JD Cutler wrote on Facebook.
“He was a salt of the earth kind of guy, and our community will never be the same without him. As my eyes swell, and tears stream down my face tonight, I look back and visit all the great times we shared soaring the sky and flying tandems together. I miss you greatly, my friend. Flying will never be the same without you.”
Other friends referred to Ellison as their “beloved Captain Avery.”
According to one paraglider, Ellison became a tandem paragliding pilot so that he could take his wife, kids and friends on trips across the sky.
“We know the risk we take Paragliding, yet the calling burns in our soul so deep that we must take flight to make us whole. Those who have this obsession, understand and share a common bond. Still, losing a friend, a close friend, is always hard,” Korey Curtis said.
“You’ve earned your wings brother, fly with angels, and continue your mission. Till we meet again my brother.”
The experience level of the hang glider was not immediately known.
A hang glider is a triangular, kite-like aircraft flown by a pilot who is suspended horizontally underneath.
A paraglider is an elongated parachute designed to glide with a pilot suspended in a seated position.
According to the US Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, five people died while paragliding last year, while there were three reported hang-gliding fatalities.