Survival

First-time hang-glider holds on for dear life after realising he WASN’T ATTACHED

Chris was on the first day of a holiday when disaster struck
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Chris Gursky, 54, and his wife Gail were on the first day of a holiday when disaster struck. Here, Chris tells the story in his own words. 

Sitting in the hotel lobby, my wife Gail and I were filled with excitement.

It was the first day of our European getaway to the rolling hills of Interlaken in Switzerland.

While we were planning our holiday, Gail had found a daring new way for us to enjoy the spectacular views – hang-gliding.

We both loved exploring the far-flung destinations we visited – why not do it from the sky!

Gail and I were so excited to hang-glide.
Gail and I were so excited to hang-glide. (Credit: Supplied)

Feeling adventurous, I heartily agreed with the idea. Now we were waiting to get picked up. Once in a car with the instructors, we zoomed away from the quaint town.

Picturesque scenery of mountains and lakes unfolded before us. Driving past an old graveyard, one of the men turned in his seat with a grin on his face.

‘That’s where all our former customers are,’ he winked.

Gail and I burst out laughing, and the men cracked more jokes. They even showed us a video of an 86-year-old woman hang-gliding! After arriving at the spot, we carried heavy duffel bags up an incline to the edge of a cliff.

It was over 1200 metres (4000ft) above sea level. Then I was strapped into a harness before my instructor got to work connecting all the straps and buckles.

He also attached a Go-Pro camera to record the flight. ‘Good luck!’ I yelled to Gail, as the wind whipped my face.

Watching on, I felt awe as my wife made a running start, before she flew through the air majestically. I couldn’t wait to have my turn!

After waiting for the gale to pick up, I sprinted alongside my instructor.

I kept running until my feet were no longer on the ground. Instantly, I knew something was very wrong.

My arm was wrapped around the shoulder of my instructor, while my other hand was gripping the glider – but my harness hadn’t been strapped on properly. 

I wasn’t attached!

The only reason I hadn’t plummeted to the ground was because I was still holding onto the bar.

Powerful winds made my body flail around as I gripped on for dear life.

The farther we tore through the sky, the weaker my grasp became.

Then, I looked down for the first time.

I’m a goner, I decided.

At first, I clung to the instructor's shoulder.
At first, I clung to the instructor’s shoulder. (Credit: YouTube)

Watching as my feet almost grazed the treetops, I envisioned myself tumbling to my death.

My instructor desperately tried to navigate the glider towards the ground. But I barely had any grip left, and my arm slowly slipped from his shoulder to his leg.

Desperately, my fingers clutched the fabric of his pants, while the other hand was wet with sweat.

I knew I only had seconds left of strength to keep myself holding on. I worked out a bit back home, but it was sheer adrenalin keeping me up now.

Finally, after more than two minutes of sheer terror, the hang-glider angled towards the fast approaching ground.

Tumbling into long grass, I sat upright in a daze.

How did I just survive that? I thought.

I looked down at the arm that had been clutching his pant leg. It was swollen and the bone was bulging out.

My left shoulder was throbbing in pain too. The instructor had landed a little further away and was running over to me.

‘Don’t move, don’t get up!’ he bellowed, worried I was badly hurt.

‘I’m fine,’ I said. ‘But I think my wrist is broken.’

Walking through the field, we headed over to where Gail was waiting for me.

She had no idea the terror I’d just endured.

‘My wrist is hurt, we need to go to the hospital,’ I told her.

After driving to the nearest hospital, we sat in the waiting room for ages.

The instructor stayed with us, before finally leaving the room to grab a drink.

‘What happened?’ said Gail. I’d been unusually quiet about my ordeal, letting her believe it was simply a rough landing.

‘I wasn’t hooked up to the glider!’ I said, explaining the only thing keeping me from freefalling to my death was my strong grip.

Her jaw almost hit the floor.

‘You could have died!’ she said, looking horrified.

My wrist was so badly broken it needed steel plates put in during surgery. And the strain of holding onto the bar had torn my bicep tendon.

I spent the night in the hospital.
I spent the night in the hospital. (Credit: Supplied)
My wrist needed steel plates.
My wrist needed steel plates. (Credit: Supplied)

Released the next afternoon, I was still feeling shaken. Gail and I had a holiday to enjoy though, so we travelled around Switzerland for the next week.

After we arrived home, I finally connected the Go-Pro footage to my computer. Then I sat back and watched the video of my near-death flight.

For two minutes and 14 seconds, I battled to survive while soaring 1200m above the ground.

I can’t believe how calm I look, I kept thinking. I was amazed by my own strength too!

Thankfully, the adrenalin helped me not to feel any pain until we’d landed.

Putting the video up on YouTube, my incredible footage attracted millions of views. It took a while before Gail was able to watch it. She hated seeing me so close to death.

I know how lucky I am that my adventure in the sky didn’t cost me my life.

I’m not angry – I know it was a mistake. Everything happens fora reason.

I’m just still trying to figure out what the reason for this was!

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