Witnesses looked on in horror as two paragliders collided in midair and fell about 75 feet to their death over the weekend.
The men have been identified as 61-year-old Raul Gonzalez Valerio of Laguna Hills, Calif., and 43-year-old Glenn Johnny Peter Bengtsson of Carlsbad, Calif. They were paragliding off Torrey Pines, a popular cliff-side launching spot near the northern coast of San Diego, when the accident happened on Saturday afternoon.
One paraglider was flying south when he allegedly made a hard right turn, placing himself in the path of the other man, San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Rich Stropky told the San Diego Union-Tribune. Stropky said the lines from the harnesses to their canopies became tangled.
It is unclear which man crossed the other’s path. One of the men was an experienced paraglider who was certified to fly on his own; the other was training for an advanced certification.
The two were about 35 feet in the air when they crashed into each other. They twirled as they fell, witness Ryan Bloum told the Union-Tribune. “Almost like a leaf falling,” he said.
“They started spinning out and they went into the mountain,” witness Rami Abuhamra told NBC 7 San Diego.
Authorities said they didn’t know if the fatal injury happened in the initial crash, or when they hit the steep cliff face about 45 feet below the edge.
San Diego firefighters had to use a helicopter to lower medics to the cliff face. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.
“We share our sorrow at the loss of two members of our close-knit soaring community,” the Torrey Pines Gliderport said in a statement.