The paragliding pilot, Purushottam Timsina, along with Bihar tourist Gaurav Chaudhary Credit: EastMojo image

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Darjeeling: Paragliding activities have been suspended further in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA)-administered areas in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills of West Bengal after a highly-trained paragliding pilot, Purushottam Timsina (22), died in a tragic accident in Kalimpong on November 24.

Extending the ban on Friday, Binoy Tamang, chairman of the Board of Administrators (BoA) of GTA, announced that paragliding operations will continue to remain grounded till proper guidelines are framed and clearance received from the Union ministry of defence.

On November 24, a regular paragliding flight took a turn for the worse, when a glider went off course and hit a tree and later a building near the landing site leading to the death of the pilot. The passenger was grievously injured in the accident.

Explaining the incident, Dipen Tamang, secretary of the Kalimpong Paragliding Association, said, “The accident occurred around 1:30 pm. The flight had taken off from Delo. While landing at Homes Ground, there was a strong gust of freak tailwind which got the glider to hit a tree. A part of it then tore off and landed on the terrace of a nearby house. Purushottam Timsina, who was flying a tourist, Gaurav Choudhary of Patna, died on the spot. Chaudhary sustained serious injuries and is currently undergoing treatment at the Kalimpong District Hospital.”

Timsina hailed from Gandaki Anchal in Pokhara, Nepal, and had joined Kalimpong Tandem Paragliding two years ago. “He was a trained paragliding pilot and was very good at his job. It was an accident,” added Tamang.

However, questions have been raised on the safety of the paragliding operations in Darjeeling region following the accident.

Speaking to EastMojo over phone, Mehar Chand Thakur, a tourism expert and a member of the Paragliding Association of Manali, one of the oldest and most renowned paragalding associations of India, said, “We mourn the death of the pilot. Every accident comes as a reminder that paragliding is an adventure sports, and like every other adventure sports, it comes with its own share of risks. However, more often than not, such accidents are rare.”

After we sent him the video captured on a GoPro camera of the flight that met with the accident, Thakur said, “Although I cannot comment looking at this video alone, but if you look at it closely, it looks like at one point, the carabineer holding the chute snapped. This could be a case of faulty or worn out equipment being used. Also the pilot hasn’t worn any helmet; it’s a complete no-no in our sports. We expect people to wear helmet while riding a bike on the road; imagine you are flying in the sky now without that. The pilot should have known better.”

Meanwhile, tourism stakeholders in the region are hoping that this tragedy will inspire the authorities to come up with strict guidelines and norms so that both the adventure tourism sector as well as the tourists who come to enjoy these sports benefit.

“We will extend all cooperation and adhere to guidelines that are formulated. Paragliding will definitely start again,” said Sujan Khati, president of the Kalimpong Paragliders’ Association.

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