Accidents and personal safety in Hong Kong

Paragliding association launches safety review and investigation into death of Hong Kong pilot Patrick Chung

HKPA, the city’s licensing body for the sport, hopes to implement new procedures as soon as possible

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 11:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 11:04pm

An investigation and safety review have been launched following a paragliding accident that claimed the life of a 44-year-old Hong Kong pilot last month, the Post has learned.

The board of inquiry was set up by the Hong Kong Paragliding Association after rescuers found the body of Patrick Chung Yuk-wa last Friday, six days after he went missing on July 22.

Chung had joined a group of more than 10 paraglider pilots who took off from Sunset Peak, also known as Tai Tung Shan, in Lantau South Country Park.

His body was found about 1km northeast of where he had taken off, with a cracked helmet and a fractured right leg. The paraglider was hanging from some rocks.

Body of missing Hong Kong paraglider pilot found

The search – which involved more than 100 rescuers, as well as helicopters and drones – had been hindered by intermittent heavy rains and low visibility.

A police source said the force, which is still investigating the accident, had handed the autopsy report to the Coroner’s Court, which would decide whether an inquest would be held.

Richard Threlfall, chairman of the HKPA, the city’s licensing body for the sport, said a board of inquiry had been formed to look into the incident and assist the relevant authorities in other probes.

“I will ask the board for initial safety recommendations so we can implement new procedures from the lessons learned as soon as possible,” Threlfall said.

He added that the association would revise its syllabus if this was recommended by the panel.

“All sports have inherent risks and dangers,” he said. “Paraglider pilots in particular take risk management very seriously in order to minimise risks and dangers in our sport.”

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Threlfall stressed that the HKPA was constantly looking at new techniques and technology that could improve safety, including satellite communication of GPS tracking data, as well as mobile phone-based tracking applications.

He said their manual currently required paragliding pilots flying in the city to carry a two-way communication radio and monitor an emergency channel shared by all paragliders.

The association has issued hundreds of licences since it was established in 1991, and there are currently 125 active registered pilots in the city.

It issues a Hong Kong paragliding licence and an international licence on behalf of the World Air Sports Federation – a document that allows local pilots to fly internationally. Foreign pilots who visit Hong Kong as tourists are required to register on the association’s website and get a local licence before they fly at any of the city’s nine designated paragliding sites.

Despite the tragedy, Threlfall said the association would continue promote paragliding in Hong Kong, including supporting local athletes to compete in various competitions around the world.

“Six of our top athletes will be representing Hong Kong in the sport of paragliding in the upcoming Asian Games,” he said.