High flyer hits snag with new manoeuvre

By James Beech

Queenstown arborist Abe Laguna (left) climbs a pine tree to reach stranded parapenter Ben Letham (bottom right) in a pine tree in Kiwi Bird Park yesterday. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Queenstown arborist Abe Laguna (left) climbs a pine tree to reach stranded parapenter Ben Letham (bottom right) in a pine tree in Kiwi Bird Park yesterday. Photo / Otago Daily Times

A parapenter had to be rescued after he landed in a tree in Queenstown yesterday.

Ben Letham's jump from the Skyline area of Bob's Peak, in perfect weather conditions, started well enough, but the 21-year-old American private pilot got into difficulties while practising a new manoeuvre at about 9.45am.

He spiralled into a towering pine tree in the Kiwi Birdlife Park.

It was believed he fell about 5m through branches before he came to a halt about 40m from the ground.

Park staff and members of the public notified Queenstown police.

Queenstown aborist Abe Laguna, who rescued another Queenstown-based American paraglider from another tree in April, used spiked boots to reach Mr Letham.

Mr Letham was secured to a safety rope then abseiled to the ground.

"It was just unlucky," Mr Letham said afterwards.

"It went wrong, trying something new."

He was full of praise for his rescuer. "He's a good guy, knows what he's doing."

Parapenting is gliding while harnessed to a fabric wing.

- Otago Daily Times

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