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Glider crashes near Blue Mountain

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 21 2013 02:17:06 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 22 2013 11:57:23 AM CDT

Gilder crashes in Blue Moutain

LOWER TOWAMENSING TWP., Pa. -

A paraglider had a very close call Sunday afternoon, after he survived a crash landing next to Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Lower Towamensing Twp., Carbon Co.

Witnesses said it was a sudden and violent fall.

Falling from the sky is not the way Gene Gleason hoped to end an afternoon of gliding with friends.

"The wind caught him the wrong way and down he came," said Dawn Reinert of Kunkletown.

Reinert and other witnesses saw Gleason's paraglider begin to violently spin as they drove past the ski resort.

"All of a sudden, the chute just turned and he started to do a spin, and we got nervous because, oh my gosh, it didn't look good at all," said Reinhert.

Neighbor Travis Berghold added:  "I just saw the chute catch the tree and I saw him hit the ground, and that's about it.  He wasn't moving, so I had to make sure he was alright."

Gleason is an experienced glider from Hoboken, N.J.  Friends said that experience helped him survive this fall.

"When he came in for the landing, had his risers trip, twist, half of his wing collapsed and then he caught a tree on the landing," said John Davis, who landed just before Gleason.

Gleason was gliding about 150 feet up in the air when he hit what's called a "thermal."  It's basically a pocket of warm air, and just like when you hit turbulence on an airplane, things can get very rough, very fast.

"It's quick," said Davis.  "He caught some bubbles of warm air as he was trying to land, and that spun his wing around."

As friends packed up what's left of his glider, Gleason is recovering from what state troopers call minor injuries at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown.

He was listed in fair condition Monday.