PUEBLO, Colo. (KDVR) — It was a dangerous weekend to paraglide in Colorado, as three motorized paragliders crashed in the state, and two of them were killed.
Roman Uskovits was the lone survivor of this weekend’s crashes. He took off Saturday morning with two other pilots near Lake Pueblo.
Motorized or paramotor paragliding is a form of ultralight aviation where pilots wear motors mounted onto their backs. Those motors provide enough thrust to take off and land a paraglider.
It’s an extreme sport but one statistics show is traditionally safer than you might think. Your odds of dying in a motorcycle crash are actually greater than in a motorized paragliding crash.
After a little more than an hour of flying, Uskovits said he made a mistake while doing a stunt over the lake and spiraled into the water at high speed. A witness captured cell phone video of the moment Uskovits crashed.
“I ended up basically face down. All of the lines kind of wrapped my feet so my feet were tied completely. I couldn’t move them,” Uskovits said.
Good Samaritans rushed to help him, and his inflatable rescue system also kicked in. Fortunately, Uskovits survived.
“They really saved my life,” he said.
However, Uskovits received bad news just minutes after being pulled to shore.
“The park ranger said, ‘One of your friends crashed. I’m going to check that out,’ and he left,” Uskovits said.
Unbeknownst to Roman, his flying partner, Aaron McDaniel, had also crashed while attempting to skim the lake. However, unlike Roman, McDaniel wasn’t wearing a rescue system, and he drowned.
“He didn’t have that and basically that’s 100 percent death. That’s like climbing a rock wall without a rope. You always have to have option B,” Uskovits explained.
Later that night, across the state in Grand Junction, more tragedy occurred. One of Aaron McDaniel’s closest friends, Ryan Rockow, also died in a motorized paragliding crash.
“He had a wing collapse and was unable to recover from that,” said Joy Rockow, Ryan’s wife.
Joy Rockow is now devastated by the loss of her husband, but she also said she’s thankful he died doing something he loved.
“He thoroughly enjoyed it. The night he went paragliding he said he wanted to catch the sunset, which was his favorite time to fly,” she said.