Paraglider dies near Aspen |

Paraglider dies near Aspen

Chad Abraham

ASPEN ” An Aspen paraglider pilot fell to his death this morning after he spiraled out of control above the North Star Nature Preserve east of Aspen.

Sam Esmiol, 39, was using a fairly new type of equipment, fellow paragliders said. Witnesses said the pilot was locked into a wild spiral for at least 30 seconds and may not have been conscious before he hit the ground. He likely died on impact, Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputies said.

Esmiol was considered to be an intermediate-level pilot, authorities said. His death remains under investigation by the sheriff’s office and the county coroner.

A man who identified himself only as Bob said he and a companion were jogging by North Star when they saw the victim in the air. They sprinted to where Esmiol landed and were the first to attend to him. His companion is an emergency medical technician, said Bob, subdued and shaken.

“At first we thought he was an acrobat and then he never pulled out,” he said.

Amy King of Houston, walking near the popular preserve with her family, also witnessed the accident, which occurred shortly after 9:30 a.m.

“Usually they’re just floating. But this guy was spiraling a lot. He just kept spiraling downward fast,” King said.

Another witness who did not give her name said Esmiol hit the ground on the southwest side of the Roaring Fork River. The site is about 300 yards from Highway 82 ” on the opposite side of the river from the designated landing zone at North Star.

Paragliders launching off the east side of Aspen Mountain use the North Star Nature Preserve as a landing site. Paragliders launching to the west often use the Marolt open space. A paraglider died at that site in July 2005 after he spiraled out of control.

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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