29 January, 2023, 3:12 pm Central - 30°C Rain

Paragliders clung to rocks, scaled cliff to survive accident near Sharp Point, WA

Paragliders clung to rocks, scaled cliff to survive accident near Sharp Point, WA

By abc.net.au
Tuesday 24/01/2023
Frits Neumann and Arthur Sewell are lucky to be alive.(Supplied: Fritz Neumann)

Two men who almost drowned following a paragliding incident off Western Australia's south coast this month say they feel lucky to be alive after clinging onto slippery rocks and scaling a steep cliff to safety.

Fritz Neumann and Arthur Sewell each have more than a decade experience in paragliding.

The extreme sport allows people to run off cliffs and sail through the air with a parachute, reaching heights of up to 18,000ft.

But it was a familiar stretch of coastline in southern WA that they say almost cost them their lives.

The men were paragliding off the Sandpatch launch area in the beautiful but rugged Tornidirrup National Park and everything was smooth sailing.

Then the wind conditions changed, and Mr Neumann decided to take a different route.

The 59-year-old said he lost a lot of height when trying to get to Sharp Point, but a wave came over the cliff and slapped the wing of his parachute.

"My only options were either crashing onto the rocks or going in the water," Mr Neumann said.

He said he was winded following his hard collision with the ocean and his kit was pushing him face down into the water.

"I managed to turn sideways and get my head above the water to get a breath. Every time I looked up, I could just see this white water coming towards me. I thought okay, here we go โ€ฆ another 20 seconds underwater," he said.

Fighting for their lives

Mr Sewell saw Mr Neumann crash into the water and feared the worst.

He wanted to help so landed on a nearby beach and went out to try and rescue him.

But then he too found trouble.

Mr Sewell was hit by a wave and got washed off the rocks.

He ended up on the wrong side of a gap he was unable to cross and had to cling onto a submerged rock for more than three and a half hours.

Mr Sewell was grateful for his long-sleeve shirt saying it "stopped his body from getting cut up".

He didn't know if anyone was looking for him and tried to get the attention of beachgoers, but they didn't see him.

Mr Sewell did not know if Mr Neumann was alive.

Cliff climb to escape ocean

Meanwhile, Mr Neumann managed to get himself out of the water and onto a nearby cliff.

He said his first hook knife was jammed but luckily, he had a secondary one hidden away.

He used that to cut the string and harness from his head and body and proceeded up the face of a steep cliff.

"I just shimmied up the cliff for the next four hours โ€ฆ every time I grabbed the limestone rocks they'd just break away," he said.

Mr Neumann reached the top and was met with emergency service crews.

Concern for mate still missing

But they still had not found Mr Sewell.

Albany Sea Rescue eventually located him and pulled him to safety.

"When I saw them, just the relief โ€ฆ I mean thanks doesn't seem quite adequate when people save your life," he said.

"I didn't know until they pulled me into the boat and they said, 'Your mate is safe'."

Mr Sewell expressed gratitude for everyone who helped in their rescue that day.

He spent the evening in hospital with hypothermia and several abrasions.

Mr Neumann said he thought he was going to drown three or four times.

"One thing that really surprised me is how calm I was, I sort of resigned myself to the fact that I've destroyed my family's life by killing myself this way. And said, well I'll try and get out of this," he said.

Calls for better phone coverage

He said none of the men had mobile coverage and a member of the group had to scale rocks to get reception.

Mr Neumann said he would support calls for improved mobile coverage in the area.

"It would have got emergency services to us an hour earlier," he said.

A Telstra tower has been planned for the site for several years but is yet to be installed.

Boyd Brown, Telstra regional general manager for WA, said construction would hopefully begin in late April, to be completed by the end of May.

In August, Telstra told the ABC the site would be on air by March.

Mr Boyd put the delay down to finalising detailed technical designs, ordering of technology parts, many of which are sourced from overseas, booking in specialist construction contractors and liaising with local authorities.

Story by Briana Fiore

Original link https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-24/paragliders-survive-accident-wa-tornidirrup-national-park/101884618?fbclid=IwAR0sRI0Uil1VsliyUbbJYsShc2Z1QMPydleVGaMLaAkDejxZYFY8Bvv6plw

Latest Videos

Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations

CFL radio frequencies
Womens Rugby World Cup 2022
Quarter-final qualification is now the goal for the Rooster Chicken Fijiana 15โ€™s following their 21-17 victory against South Africa.
101 days ago

Queen Elizabeth II passes away
Queen Elizabeth II, the UK's longest-serving monarch, has died aged 96, after reigning for 70 years.
131 days ago

Fiji wins Melrose Cup after 17 years
Fiji wins the RWC 7s title after 17 year drought
133 days ago
South Africa is a tough opponent - Gollings
Fiji Airways Menโ€™s National 7s coach Ben Gollings says the team is exactly where they want to be and are looking forward to meeting South Africa in ...
3 hours ago
Fijiana 7s to face Australia in fifth-place playoff after 40-7 victory over Japan
The Fiji Airways Fijiana 7s have defeated Japan 35-7 in the fifth-place semi-final of the HSBC Sydney 7s. Former Gospel High School student, ...
1 hour ago

Close to a ton of marijuana uprooted from 7 farms in Kadavu - A/ACP Driu
Close to a ton of marijuana that was uprooted from 7 farms in Kadavu were destroyed in accordance with approved court destruction orders. Chief ...
2 hours ago

35-year-old man missing in waters between Laucala Island and Taveuni
A 35-year-old man is missing in waters between Laucala Island and Taveuni following an alleged dispute out at sea on Friday afternoon. Police ...
3 hours ago

Early birthday present for 4 year old Eli Tamanisau
It was an early birthday present for 4-year-old Eli Tamanisau as he will now be able to live a longer life after a successful heart surgery at the ...
3 hours ago

More than 100 plants, dried leaves and branches believed to be marijuana discovered in Tailevu
More than 100 plants, dried leaves and branches believed to be marijuana were discovered during a raid conducted by the Eastern Division Police task ...
3 hours ago