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Somerset paraglider's mountain survival fight after horror crash

By Western Gazette - Crewkerne  |  Posted: October 06, 2012

SURVIVAL INSTINCT: Paraglider, Guy Anderson of Lopen managed to survive more than two days stranded on an American mountain range after crashing during a competition

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When a search and rescue party found the blood-stained canopy belonging to Lopen paraglider Guy Anderson they feared the worst.

A huge rescue operation was launched when the 49-year-old failed to reach the finish of a 100km course at the paragliding world cup in Sun Valley, Idaho, USA, on August 25.

His wife, Louise, boarded a plane shortly after receiving a phone call telling her Guy had been missing for more than 24 hours and everyone was starting to get worried.

But as his rescuers scoured the expansive mountain range for signs of life, Guy was tapping into his survival instinct.

He vividly recalls every moment of his near three-day ordeal stranded in the mountain range.

He said: “There were 120 of us all flying along. It was getting windier, we had to be careful because we were close to the mountains.

“Because of the wind I separated from the main group and went down a valley.

“I was low, one wing hit something and I was not high enough to deploy the reserve wing. I had just enough time to think “this is going to hurt” before I hit the ground.

“If somebody crashes there are normally other people in the air who would see you, but I was the wrong side of the mountain so nobody did.

“I crashed and realised I had damaged my arm quite badly. I could not use it, I had fractured seven ribs on my left side, punctured my lung and fractured my pelvis.

“I never blacked out so I was conscious for the whole thing.

“My long distance vision went for a while and I heard a weird voice in my head telling me I needed to use some oxygen. I snorted some of it from the tank and felt a bit better.”

Guy crashed at around 3pm and soon realised his tracking log was faulty, so nobody would know where he was.

He said: “It was obvious there was nobody coming that evening. I knew I would be there for the night, so I made myself comfortable. I had a lot of water and warm clothing.

“That night there was lots of growling from bears and I knew there were lots of grizzlies and mountain lions near.

“I had my penknife and the flash of my otherwise useless mobile phone to defend myself with, but luckily they did not come any closer.

“The next day I decided I would have to walk out of where I was somehow, because I did not think anyone would know where to find me.

“My glider was completely wrapped up in the shrubbery and it was almost the same colour as well, so even if anyone flew over I didn’t think they would see it.

“At 10am I set off down the hill, pushing myself along on my bum.

“I got to the bottom of the valley and had to get to my feet. I had left most of my equipment behind because I couldn’t carry much weight.

“I found a good stick and attached my water ballast to the end. I was able to get up and started walking at about zero miles per hour. There was no sign of any human existence as far as the eye could see.

“It started clouding over a bit later and at first I was happy because it was a cooler, but then it started bucketing down and there was almost no shelter at all.

“I was in the barren wilderness, under a thunderstorm from about 8pm until 3am the next morning.

“The next day it took me an hour to get to my feet because of my injuries and how soaked and heavy I was.

“It was on that day I started hallucinating and saw a nice shed under a tree. I walked towards it and was kicking myself for spending the night in that storm when there was a shed right there the whole time that I hadn’t noticed. I imagined what it was like inside and thought a local farmer would help me. But when I got there it vanished.”

Mr Anderson kept himself distracted by playing silly games in his head and picturing himself in hospital.

He said: “I kept convincing myself I was going to get to a hospital that night. I knew people must be looking for me. The organisers had given a speech about how nobody would be left behind should an accident happen.

“I heard the first helicopter at about noon, it flew over where I crashed and then veered away.

“I was shouting ‘help’ but because of my punctured lung I could barely hear my own voice so I quickly realised that was pointless.

“But I got a bit of a boost when I started walking along a cattle track and could see wildlife in the distance.

“The helicopter by this point had found the wreckage and landed nearby. An old friend of mine was on board, which made my rescue all the better.

“They had been looking for my body. I think, they thought maybe I would have been eaten by an animal because there was blood on the glider canopy from where I bashed my face.

“It was a massive relief to be rescued and from there I was taken to a hospital.

“On the bright side, I had enjoyed some of the wildlife. I was moving so slowly I was even able to get close to some deer.

“In 20 years that was my first accident. I will be back paragliding in the future.”

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