Helicopter crew plucks paraglider from slope

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Emergency crews Wednesday performed a dramatic rescue of a man whose paraglider crashed on Red Mountain in Glenwood Springs.

John Goss, who is well-known in Glenwood Springs as managing director and cast member with the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue, suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, but he had been stuck on a steep section of the mountain.

He was plucked mid-afternoon from the spot by a Colorado Army National Guard helicopter from Gypsum after Glenwood Springs Fire Department and Garfield County Search and Rescue crews hiked and rappelled to his location to secure him and place him on a stretcher for the airlift. Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said he spoke to Goss by cellphone while Goss was awaiting rescue and he was “conscious and alert, (with) maybe some injuries but no serious trauma.”

Tillotson said Goss may have suffered a back injury.

Tillotson said Goss landed about 11 a.m. more than halfway up the mountain on a 60-degree slope with loose soil and little vegetation. Tillotson said it was so steep that every time Goss tried to move before rescuers arrived, he slipped.

Tillotson called the rescue “a pretty risky operation.”

When the helicopter first hovered above Goss, giant clouds of dust swirled around him and rescuers. But the pilot held the craft seemingly motionless as rescuers prepared Goss to be lifted on a roughly 150-foot cable into the helicopter.

“I think that guy is doing an awesome job holding that helicopter in that position that long,” Tillotson said.

Red Mountain is a popular paragliding launch spot. Fellow paragliders watching the rescue said Goss has some 130 previous flights. He was on a noncommercial, solo flight.

Pine Pienaar of Adventure Paragliding & Expeditions in Glenwood Springs said Goss must have “just gotten in a bit of a funky updraft” while close to the mountain and unfortunately hit the ground in a difficult spot.

Pienaar said accidents can happen in paragliding, just as in many sports, and paragliders try to learn from them. But he said the incident was the first in probably 15,000 flights from Red Mountain.

“This is actually a fairly nice, safe place to fly,” he said.

He said the winds on the mountain are generally predictable, and it’s also pretty easy to know when it is or isn’t safe to fly.

He said Goss loves the sport and “is very enthusiastic” about it.

“He’s been doing great (paragliding) and it’s just unfortunate. I pray that he’s all good,” Pienaar said.


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