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Storm whips paraglider to heights of 32,000 ft


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Storm whips paraglider to heights of 32,000 ft


A champion paraglider described today her terror at being flung to a height greater than Mount Everest by a tornado-like thunderstorm in Australia.


Paraglider survives being flung to the height of Mount Everest in a storm

Wisnerska rated her chances of survival as "almost zero".


Ewa Wisnerska, 35, was sucked so high that she blacked out and became encased in ice.


“You can’t imagine the power. You feel like nothing, like a leaf from a tree going up,” she told Australian radio.


Wisnerska, from Germany, was preparing for the 10th World Paragliding Championships above the town of Manilla in New South Wales when the storm struck on Wednesday.


With terrifying speed she was whisked from 2,500 ft to an estimated 32,000 ft in about 15 minutes.



A 42-year-old Chinese paraglider, He Zhongpin, was also caught in the storm and died, apparently from a lack of oxygen and extreme cold.


His body was found nearly 50 miles from where he had taken off. Wisnerska said she encountered hailstones the size of oranges as the temperature dropped to minus 58 degrees fahrenheit.


“I was shaking all the time. The last thing I remember it was dark. I could hear lightning all around me,” she said.


Her ordeal was recorded by global positioning and a radio attached to her equipment.


When her desperate attempts to skirt the powerful thunderstorm failed, she concluded that her chances of survival were “almost zero.” “I said, 'I can’t do anything. It’s raining and hailing and I’m still climbing — I’m lost.”’


The paragliding 2005 World Cup winner lost consciousness for more than 30 minutes while her aircraft flew on uncontrolled, sinking and lifting several times.


“There’s no oxygen. She could have suffered brain damage. But she came to again at a height of 6,900 metres with ice all over her body and slowly descended herself,” said Godfrey Wenness, the event organizer and one of Australia’s most experienced paraglider pilots.


After regaining consciousness, she felt like an astronaut returning from the Moon as the ground loomed beneath her. “I could see the Earth coming — wow, like Apollo 13 — I can see the Earth,” she said.


Wisnerska landed safely 40 miles from her original launch site with ice in her lightweight flying suit and frost bite to her face.


She spent just an hour in a hospital for observation and hopes to compete in biennial championships which begin on February 24.


Earlier this month a British paraglider survived an attack by two large eagles while flying in the same area.











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