A man was injured when his motorized paraglide crashed into the water of the Rose Creek inlet north of Mission Bay Tuesday afternoon but it was the help of three bystanders who likely saved his life, according to a lifeguard lieutenant.
The paraglider crashed into the water at about 11:15 a.m. and was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital for treatment to injuries that were serious but not considered life-threatening, San Diego Fire-Rescue spokesperson Lt. Rick Romero said.
That's because three people -- one a veteran with aviation experience -- were fishing on a small pier nearby when the paraglider came down, and immediately jumped in to help.
"They definitely save that man’s life, absolutely. Big huge help,” Romero said.
Veteran Alex Munoz said the paraglider was flying low, but he thought he was just trying to skim the water.
"Unfortunately, that wasn't the case," Munoz said. "He just went into the water so right then and there I was like okay well that's not a good sign. something really went wrong.
Munoz estimated the paraglider was traveling at about 30 miles per hour when he hit the surface.
"I used to jump out of planes, so yeah, I am very familiar with what happens when you come downwind," he said.
The man was semi-conscious, tangled in the strings of his glider, and the motor strapped to his back was still running. The three men jumped into the water to help.
Before San Diego Fire-Rescue lifeguards could arrive, the three bystanders had freed the paraglider from the rig. Paramedics arrived as they were trying to get the man to shore, all while stabilizing his neck and spine to prevent further injuries.
"Being able to keep the person’s head above water, get him floated up, get him out of the harness, that was a huge help,” the SDFD lieutenant said.
Munoz said the man could wiggle his toes but complained of pain in his lower legs. He appeared to be in shock and could answer only a few questions.
SDFD lifeguards placed the man into the back of an ambulance for transfer to Sharp Memorial Hospital. He is expected to survive his injuries.
The paraglide sat in the water of the Rose Creek inlet. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was called to take a look at the scene, though Romero said there would not likely be an investigation by the agency.
Romero said these types of crashes don't happen often. In fact, it's the first one he can remember during his career.
SDFD crews would remain on scene through the investigation and would pull the paraglide out of the water once given the all-clear.