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Young woman dies in paragliding accident in east Taiwan

Instructor says safety buckle failed mid-flight, causing woman to fall to her death

Paraglider falls onto this country road in Hualien. (Fengbin Township police photo)

Paraglider falls onto this country road in Hualien. (Fengbin Township police photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A 27-year-old woman surnamed Hsiao (蕭) died while paragliding in Hualien on Saturday (Nov. 18) due to an equipment malfunction.

The woman had traveled with her boyfriend and friend to Hualien's Fengbin Township to paraglide. She had registered for a tandem flight with an instructor named Yeh (葉).

One minute into her flight, the safety buckle on her harness failed. She fell 10 meters and landed on a paved road surface, where she died immediately upon impact, per UDN.

Her instructor said the safety buckle had failed, but local prosecutors arrived at the scene to inspect equipment and video footage. The Hualien District Prosecutors Office is investigating the instructor for negligent death.

The deceased woman had previous experience paragliding and had visited the paragliding location before. This time, she brought along her boyfriend and best friend, hoping to introduce them to the activity.

Hsiao's boyfriend, surnamed Li (李), accused the instructor of taking off without buckling the safety buckle. He believed the instructor also intentionally lost the GoPro attached to the paraglider to avoid responsibility for the accident.

Paragliding is managed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and "Regulations on Unpowered Flight Movement.” The MOE said strict provisions and land acquisition regarding take-off points and landing lead to very few places where paragliding is allowed in Taiwan.

The paragliding operator involved in the accident has been asked to suspend operations until the completion of the investigation.

Other paragliding operators said that pre-flight routines involved regular checking of safety equipment. If equipment is regularly maintained and checked, it is difficult for safety buckles to fall out, they said.