US paraglider pilots Brad Sander and Eric Reed have been arrested in Sikkim, India, after flying in from Nepal without permits, according to local news reports.
According to a The Telegraph, Caluctta, the duo, who are trying to complete their epic mission of a complete traverse of the entire Himalaya, were arrested on 16 March.
Brad, known for his high altitude flying in the Karakoram, and Eric, a former US champion, spent seven weeks last year flying from Bir in India to east of Pokhara in Nepal as part of the Himalayan Odyssey expedition.
This spring season they wanted to complete the traverse. However, they were keeping things more low key for this trip, and only three pilots – Brad, Eric and Antoine Laurens – are involved. The last entry on their blog is weeks old.
Brad told Cross Country in mid February that he was planning to try to complete the traverse. “I am gearing up as the spring approaches,” he said. “It’s taken me this long to recover from last year’s trip.”
A few days before the pair set out, Brad again emailed Cross Country. “I don’t mean to talk too much about plans,” he said, “but Eric’s in Nepal and we’re going to try and finish this.”
The Telegraph Calcutta reported on Thursday 17 March that the pair had “sailed across the border into Sikkim from Nepal without permits and took in the picturesque sights for two days before getting themselves entangled in red tape.”
The report said:
Eric Reed, 45, and Brad Sander, 35, were arrested yesterday in Sikkim for travelling to the strategic border state without the inner-line permits mandatory for foreigners. The two had valid passports and visas for entering India. Preliminary reports suggest they flew in without the permits because of a misunderstanding.
The foreigners were found roaming in a bazaar in Uttarey, a town in West district in Sikkim. They were picked up by the police after they failed to produce the permits.
Deputy inspector-general of police N. Sridhar Rao said the two Americans had used paragliders to sail into Sikkim and had landed on the flat terrain of Dhaap, near Uttarey and close to the India-Nepal border, on March 14.
Sikkim shares a 101km border with Nepal. The border areas are inaccessible because of high altitudes and difficult terrain. The Sashastra Seema Bal guards the border in Uttarey. Apart from Nepal, Sikkim shares borders with China (215km) in the north and the east and Bhutan (32km) in the east.
The DIG said foreigners must take the permits from check-posts at Rangpo and Melli, the two main points of entry into Sikkim. “Neither Reed nor Sander had the permits and they were charged with entering Sikkim illegally.”
It also said the pair will be charged and fined, between $200 and $1,000:
They have been charged under the Foreigners Act for not carrying documents necessary to enter restricted areas in the country. Police officers said that if convicted, they could be jailed between two and eight years and/or fined Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000.
The Calcutta Telegraph also said that the vice president of the local paragliding association in Sikkim, Raju Rai, has been detained.
The last update from Brad Sander’s Spot device was on 16 March at 5.41am. Eric Reed’s Spot last updated on the same day at 8.11am. It is not known if the pair’s Spots have been confiscated or simply turned off.
Brad and Eric are experienced India hands as well as expert pilots, so undoubtedly the pair will be taking the red-tape setback in their stride.
Cross Country has emailed the pair’s support team as well as the pilots themselves to find out the situation on the ground and offer support if needed. If any pilot has confirmed or new information, please use the comments section below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: Jessica Love, the pair’s supporter on the ground, has confirmed that the pair were arrested but are not currently in jail. Both pilots are fine. She will tell us more when she has it.
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