Aspen resident dies in paragliding accident
Aspen resident Reese Martin died in a paragliding accident Friday in central Washington state.The body of the 49-year-old was found Saturday afternoon near Bridgeport, sheriff’s officials said, one day after he disappeared while competing in the Chelan Cross Country Classic, a long-distance flying competition. The competitors launch from a nearby butte and fly over the resort area, accumulating points for distance traveled and route difficulty.Martin, an accomplished paragliding pilot and mountaineer, was killed on impact when he crashed on the northeast side of Dyer Hill, located about five miles northwest of Bridgeport, Douglas County Sheriff Dan LaRoche said.He apparently struck a pine tree on the edge of a wheat field before crashing into the field at a steep angle, LaRoche said.Part of a tree limb was entangled in the lines of Martin’s paraglider, the sheriff said.Martin, the husband of Charlotte Fox of Aspen, was an environmental engineer and familiar face in Aspen climbing circles. A California native, Martin moved here four years ago when he and Fox married, according to friend Neal Beidleman of Aspen.Martin also worked as a paragliding pilot for Aspen Paragliding and Expeditions, taking customers on tandem flights off Aspen Mountain, and was active in The Access Fund, a group dedicated to keeping climbing areas open to climbers.”Reese was a very charismatic person,” said Beidleman. “He was a very easy guy to be around, and to like.”Paragliding had become one of his main passions, basically the thing he loved the most, although he loved a lot of things.”Steven Alford, coordinator of the paragliding and hang gliding competition, said the consensus among pilots is that most likely the front of Martin’s glider collapsed in turbulent air, causing it to spiral down. That’s the most common type of paraglider accident, said Alford, who will head an investigation by the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.The accident most likely happened at an altitude that left Martin no time to deploy his reserve parachute, Alford said.Similar to parachutes, paragliders do not have frames like hang gliders – only lines and canopy. They’re more maneuverable than the variety of chute used by sky divers, and the rigs are often referred to as “wings” because of similarities to hang gliding.Paragliding and hang gliding are members of the “foot launch” aviation family.Alford said Martin’s ground crew last had radio contact with him around 2:40 p.m. Friday. Martin failed to check in at 9 p.m., which made him overdue. Alford waited until noon Saturday to report him missing because it can take pilots time to walk out of remote areas, he said.The body was spotted around 3:30 p.m. Saturday by a sheriff’s office plane.It’s the second fatality in the 23-year history of the competition. Adolf Wilfried Muller, a top Canadian hang glider and paraglider, died in 1998 when his paraglider collapsed in turbulence.The Associated Press contributed to this report
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