A HANG-gliding pilot who crashed on Mount Borah last month says he’s lucky to be alive and that his accident highlights why winching needs to be restored to the region’s rescue helicopters.
Nundle man Fabian Norrie was airlifted from the Manilla mountain on Saturday, September 28, after coming to grief on take-off and while he didn’t need the winch in that instance, he says had his crash site been in a slightly different location, it could have been a very different story.
“We need the winching and we particularly need it around Mount Borah,” he said.
“It should be allowed because people have to be rescued somehow.”
Winching capabilities were removed from the Tamworth-based Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service in July after a decision by the state government.
Mr Norrie is still recovering in hospital, having moved to Quirindi hospital after several weeks in Tamworth hospital.
He’ll be in Quirindi hospital until at least early November, as a fractured arm, leg, pelvis and ribs, among other injuries, continue to heal.
The 45-year-old – he’ll turn 46 in hospital – has been hang-gliding for two-and-a-half years and admits to a previous “close call”, but on the afternoon of September 28 he says he “should have been dead”.
His two daughters and granddaughter were with him when he launched from the western face of Mount Borah about 1pm, in reasonable conditions.
Mr Norrie admits the accident was a result of pilot error, a problem with the distribution of his body weight as he took off.
The glider kicked upwards and “did a complete spin”, crashing back into the ground not far from where he launched.
“I knew I was in trouble and I yelled to my daughters, but all I could do was brace for the impact,” he said.
His memories are a little hazy from there as he drifted in and out of consciousness while one of his daughters called for help.
“I heard the chopper land and that’s all I remember,” Mr Norrie said.
He had a lot of people to thank he said, from the ambulance officers and helicopter crew, to Mount Borah owner Godfrey Wenness, who helped direct the services to Mr Norrie’s location.
Despite his second near-miss, he remains determined to return to the air, both in a hang-glider and in an ultralight, which he had just started to learn to fly.
“Everyone’s trying to talk me out of it, but I love it and I’m going to keep flying.”