Pilot error finding questioned

Posted: September 2, 2013 by JonoShmono "SykOse. Live. Extreme." in Air, Paragliding
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Tandem paraglider launch

On May 19 this year pilot Rob Lithgow and his Victor Harbor passenger Bruce Ottoway, were killed in a paragliding accident about 40 kilometres south-east of Warrnambool.

Victorian Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association president Rob van der Klooster stated that his investigation into the incident found it was the result of a pilot error.

Being that there were no survivors and a number of possible scenarios to what could have occurred, no one can conclusively state that it was pilot error. Conversely, I believe there is good reason to conclude otherwise.

Just 10 days prior to the incident, I was flying with Rob Lithgow in the same area, the Bay of Islands. I radioed him to position himself for a photo.

His response was “I will have to stay higher than you to be in reach of the cliffs, as I don’t have the emergency inflation as you do”. Why would he, 10 days later, break his own rule of safety, especially with his passenger’s life in his hands?

During the 10 years in which I have been flying, two experienced paraglider pilots with whom I had flown, one a long-standing instructor, lost their lives due to wind change.

Rob Lithgow is the only pilot to have flown the coastline from Melbourne to Adelaide and had flown this area on at least two occasions, both with myself.

Though it was stated that he should have remained in reach of the cliffs, under normal circumstances he should have been high enough to cope with some wind change. However, accidents don’t happen under normal conditions.

This unproven finding of pilot error has caused unnecessary distress to an already devastated widow and family. Therefore I call for Mr van der Klooster to retract his unproven claim. The actual cause of the accident can only remain unknown and unproven.

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