Tragedy hits Paragliding World Championships 2011

Two die in separate incidents. Next of kin have been informed

Mads Syndergaard Blog, 7/7/2011: Our darkest day
Mads Syndergaard Blog, 7/7/2011: Mads leaves

Eitel von Muhlenbrock, left, and Francisco Vargas. Photo: lacuarta.cl / jornadaonline.com

Eitel von Muhlenbrock, left, and Francisco Vargas. Photo: lacuarta.cl / jornadaonline.com

Tragedy struck the Paragliding World Championships in Spain today, 6 July, when two pilots died in separate incidents. Next of kin have been informed.

The first incident occurred at about 2pm when Argentinean pilot Francisco Vargas, 50, crashed near Piedrahita.

Spanish media report that the Civil Guard was called for the pilot who was unconscious following the fall. Mountain rescue and a helicopter were called to the scene. Attempts to revive the pilot proved unsuccessful.

The second incident happened at 4pm when Chilean pilot Eitel von Muhlenbrock, 45, crashed 10km from Avila, close to the N-110 road. Emergency services attended the pilot who was reported to be unconscious.

A helicopter and an emergency medical crew was despatched to the scene. Doctors reported that the pilot, aged 45, died at the scene.

Organisers of the competition, the biggest event of the paragliding calendar issued a statement this evening.

It reads in full:

6 July 2011, Piedrahita

It is with great regret that the organisers have to announce that there were two serious accidents during the competition task today. The first accident occurred at approximately 14.00. Argentinian pilot, Francisco Vargas crashed into the hillside a few kilometres from launch. Emergency services were called to the site, but the pilot died at the scene.

The second accident occurred at approximately 16.00 in the Avila area. Chilean pilot Eitel von Muhlenbrock lost control of his paraglider and crashed. Emergency Services arrived swiftly, but the pilot died from his injuries.

Next of kin of both pilots have been informed.

We do not yet know the cause of either of the accidents, but an investigation to determine the sequence of events is already underway by the event organisers, together with Safety representatives of the FAI and the local police. As soon as we have further information, we will issue another statement.

There were three further minor incidents today, involving the deployment of reserve parachutes. All three pilots landed safely and were uninjured.

The organisers wish to extend their deepest sympathies to the families and friends of both Francisco Vargas and Eitel von Muhlenbrock.

Jose Luiz – Event Director
Steve Ham – Competition Director

News of a possible accident was first revealed online by those watching the live tracking.

Posters on the paraglidingforum.com saw Ronny Helgesen’s live track plummet.

Alarm spread quickly and Worlds organisers asked the forum to stop people posting and to hold back from discussing the incidents.

CIVL Secretary Louise Joselyn asked paragliding media including XCmag to wait until a statement was prepared to avoid the spread of “misinformation”.

However, Spanish media reported the accidents widely online.

The deaths are the worst outcome for a competition that had hoped to showcase paragliding at its best, promising fast racing across the flatlands of Spain.

Cross Country extends its sincere condolences to the families of Francisco and Eitel. The pilots were loved and valued members of the wider family of pilots around the globe. A photograph of Eitel is on Flickr here.

We will report more news here when we can. Comments are open below for those who would like to leave a personal message.


• Got news? Send it to us at news@xcmag.com

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