Crossing the Road: Luck And Tragedy
2010, June 16 Thoughts on a Fatal Powered Paragliding Accident
One of our own is gone.
Even though I did not know Andrew personally, undoubtedly he would
have been an instant friend--a lover of life and of flight. He died
while launching his paramotor after being hit by a truck on a relatively
sparsely traveled road. Ten seconds earlier or ten seconds later would
have made this just another "close call" story. I've seen pilots launch
over roads without looking both ways who were just lucky. Andrew wasn't.
This tragedy highlights again how fragile, and how fleeting life is. My
heart goes out to his family and friends.
Of course we have to learn from these horrific losses. There is
almost always something that could be done and this was no different. Go
farther from the road. Abort if things aren't progressing as planned,
etc. That's so easy to say but how many times have we seen (or maybe
even done) a launch take longer than planned? In this case there was a
road nearby. It's also easy to say "look both ways" and, of course it is
easy to look both ways, but reality of a maximum effort takeoff that
pilots aren't looking everywhere they'd like to be looking. Ask him if
he would look both ways before launching across a road and his reaction
would be the same as yours, the same as mine.
Lets not write these things off as if "it couldn't happen to me."
Maybe we don't incur this particular risk, going accross a road, but
there are many, many opportunities. I know I'm in several risk
categories and will readily admit to seeing the influence of luck,
good and bad, in some instances. Sometimes it was only in the
clarity of hindsight that I realized how luck's hand was dealt.
One take-home is the common instruction on how to make this sport
sooooo much safer: After (1) thorough training to at least PPG2 level,
(2) limit yourself to reasonably benign certified gliders, (3) fly from
wide open fields, (4) in good weather with no drastic changes forecast,
(5) climb to 200 feet and (6) stay within the first 3 and last 3 hours
of daylight. (7) Don't do any steep maneuvering or (8) fly out of
gliding range of safe sites and (9) never ever allow water to be
a possible landing option. Avoiding props may reduce the most hospital
visits and life-changing injuries, but the above instructions will do
the most to stay alive.
This basic advice goes a long way to avoiding most fatal accident
Misjudging launch distance caused a pilot's demise who thought the
water was a lot farther away and wasn't that deep anyway. He fatally
misjudged both the distance and depth. So much has to do with simple
preplanning. If you cannot steer a launch, have an abort option in mind.
Something like "If I don't get airborne by xxx then I'll stop." Another
is that, if the launch isn't progressing by plan, abort to a run and
reasses, avoiding the proverbial emergency launch. Unfortunately, it's a
lot easier to have good plans in mind than it is to execute unwanted,
albeit safe, aborts after struggling through a difficult launch.
To those who say there is no such thing as luck: billshut. I
certainly agree that we have enormous influence on our well-being, but
have witnessed enough surprising coincidences to know that pure chance
inhabits reality. Just ask my friend who was southbound on I-71, headed
to a church function with his parents who were following in a car
behind. A towed vehicle in the northbound lane became disconnected,
crossed the median and crashed into his mother's car, killing her. Use
your imagination on how many chance events led to that one.
Lets just make sure to let Andrews tragedy be a lesson on what's at
stake and do what we can to minimize luck's effect to its lowest
The article is below. Andrew's funeral was today, June 16, 2010.
From the BND.com News Article
A Ballwin, Mo. man was killed Sunday morning
after his paraglider struck a pickup truck traveling down a road
Andrey Azarskova, 40,
was attempting to take off from a field east of Ramsey Road in his
power paraglider just before 11 a.m. Sunday when he lost control of
the paraglider. The parachute on the out-of-control paraglider was
caught by a gust of wind and Azarskova was pulled towards Ramsey
Road, according to Columbia Police Chief Col. Joseph A. Edwards.
When the paraglider reached Ramsey Road it
struck the side of a 1996 Ford F-250 pickup truck traveling
southbound on the road. The impact with the truck caused Azarskova
He was taken to St.
Anthony's Hospital in St. Louis where he was pronounced dead.
The Columbia Police Department, the Columbia EMS Department and the
Columbia Fire Department all responded to the accident. The fire
department assisted during the investigation and contained a gas
leak from the crashed paraglider.
FAA was also contacted and arrived at the scene to assist with the
investigation, however, because the FAA does not require licensing
or certification to operate a paraglider the Columbia Police
Department is handling the investigation into the crash and