So there I was watching the LiveTracking for task 2 of the World Championships in Piedrahita at lunchtime today, and very exciting it was too. I was also enjoying the running email commentary I was having with three friends, pretending to be experts from the comfort of our own armchairs.
The task was difficult at first with most pilots below takeoff height for much of the time before the start, but as always happens they (mainly) all climbed out and the race was on, a 77km race to goal at Avila. An hour or so later the lead gaggle reaches goal and we’re exchanging emails saying what a race, what an exciting finish etc… etc…
Then at about 1630 something odd happens – the discussion on pgforum about the Worlds is suddenly locked by the moderators after the Worlds Organisation is swamped by other armchair pilots like me reporting potential incidents.
There’s no news for two hours then at 1845 the organisers send out a tweet saying there’ve been two serious accidents during the day. With slight trepidation I click on the link expecting to read about a couple of reserve rides and possibly some injuries, hopefully not too serious, but I’m completely stunned by what I read – two separate incidents resulting in the deaths of two pilots.
What can you possibly say…? I felt sick and I’m not even there. God knows what it must be like for their friends, teammates and other competitors. It’s too early to speculate on what might have happened, all I can do is express my sympathy to the friends and families of the two pilots, Francisco Vargas of Argentina, and Eitel von Muhlenbrock of Chile, and hope that somehow some good will come out of their sacrifice – top level competitions must now be made safer so that no more pilots die needlessly.
Of course I realise that paragliding is an inherently risky activity, but when there are two fatal accidents and three reserve throws in one day then there’s definitely something broken with our sport.
RIP Francisco and Eitel, may your deaths not be in vain.