Dangers of paragliding

Family and friends of 30-year-old Juhu resident Kkevil Shah are shocked that his passion for paragliding became the cause of his death on Sunday.

Shah had gone to Lonavala for a friend’s engagement party on Saturday and on Sunday decided to go paragliding at the 14-year-old Nirvana Adventures Flying Club in Kamshet.

According to sources, the accident happened when Shah collided with another paraglider while trying to land on a hill. After the collision Shah apparently landed hard on his chest, leading to serious internal injuries. But by the time people brought him to Kamshet General Hospital, he was declared dead.

His friends have claimed that if there was an emergency medical facility at the site, Shah could have been saved. Gaurav, the other paraglider who collided with Shah, is in serious condition and is being treated at Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune.

No medical facility at site

Shah’s friends who went to collect his body at Talegaon General Hospital allege that after he fell, he lay unattended for nearly two hours on the hill.

“There is not even a basic medical facility. The ambulance arrived only after two-and-a-half hours. When it finally arrived, the first aid box was locked and the woman inside the ambulance did not even have a stethoscope,” Harsh Vasisht, one of Shah’s friends, said.

Shah’s friends say he was an experienced paraglider. Shruti Shetty, a friend, said, “On Saturday we had all gone paragliding with him and he flew for over half-an-hour alone. He has been flying for the last two years and was very adept. He had done two five-day paragliding courses which is good enough for someone to fly alone.”

No negligence, insists club

Meanwhile, chief instructor at Nirvana Adventure Flying Club Sanjay Pendurakar, says there was absolutely no negligence on the part of the club in Shah’s death.

“This is an adventure sport mostly conducted at high altitude places. Ambulances take a while to reach here in case of emergencies, but in our 14 years, we have never had a case like this.”

He added, “There are no rules and regulations for adventure sports in this country. We follow the rules that paragliding flying clubs abroad follow.”

Family Devastated

Shah’s family is nevertheless devastated at the loss of their only son. Kkevil who was born in London, used to live at Vasant Theosophical Housing Society in Juhu and worked with his father in the family’s construction business. He has three sisters, two of whom live in Kenya.

Crying bitterly, Bharti, Shah’s eldest sister, said, “He was our only brother. Our family has totally collapsed now that he has gone. We have lost everything. He was the man of the house and was taking care of the family business.”

Vipul Vasisht, Shah’s friend says stricter safety measures need to be put into place for adventure sports. “We want to create awareness about safety measures to be taken while paragliding. We do not want to kill adventure sports but believe safety is not taken as seriously as it should be.”

Meanwhile, owner of Temple Pilot Paragliding Club Pune, owner, Anita Deshpande, said, “This is a tragic incident no doubt but it is definitely a stray one. In the 14 years I have been running my club I have never heard of fatal accidents while paragliding. We take every precaution while paragliding and would never deliberately put anyone’s life in danger.”

NO RULES

Except for Himachal Pradesh no other state has made any rules to regulate paragliding. For the rest of the country there is no national body regulating the sport. No equipment certification system. No airworthiness for paragliding equipment. No third party insurance requirement and no national licence, so far. This lack of regulation is a dual-edged sword and also means there is no protection to paragliding as a sport and no recognition.