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Paragliding legend Nick Neynens can’t walk and may be paralyzed after a fall

Paragliding legend Nick Neynens can't walk and may be paralyzed after a fall
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Australian paragliding pro Nick Neynens may never walk again after falling heavily on a rock face while gliding in the French Alps.

The 39-year-old from Brisbane met with three other friends in Annecy, southeast France, in mid-June, where they had planned to fly out into the mountains.

Nick said it was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with blue skies, no wind and no signs of danger.

“I’ve flown to many places and conditions around the world and it definitely didn’t seem like one of the more dangerous,” he told news.com.au.

However, just a day into their trip, the veteran adventure pilot experienced a glider collapse and crashed violently into a rock face, giving his spare canopy insufficient time to deploy.

Nick said it was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with blue skies, no wind and no signs of danger.
Nick said it was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with blue skies, no wind and no signs of danger
nneynens/Instagram

The mid-air horror crash left Nick with serious injuries. He now has a spinal injury and cannot move from the waist down.

“I remember a few minutes before the accident. I don’t remember the actual accident but I do know that I hit the ground twice,” Nick told news.com.au from his bed in the intensive care unit at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

“I was on the ground for a while after falling the first time, then I kind of got caught in a gust of wind which I think reinflated my parachute, causing the second crash – which caused the most damage.

Nick took to Facebook where he shared a lengthy post thanking the donors and all the messages of support he had received from around the world.
The mid-air horror crash left Nick with serious injuries. He now has a spinal injury and cannot move from the waist down.
nneynens/Instagram

“My friend who took off last saw the crash from the air and immediately arranged a rescue helicopter.”

Nick remembers climbing up to cross the Col des Aravis, then near the crest he noticed the wind from the west and decided to jump that side.

“Not long after I was in a bowl, facing downwind, and my final shots less than 400m from the crash site made several turns in gentle thermals.”

He said he took a few turns, looked for a lift, and then, “I fell out of the sky.”

His friend saw him spin and throw the reserve, which didn’t deploy.

Nick was flown to Annecy, France hospital where doctors operated on his back to stabilize an L1 spine fracture, with his other injuries including a subdural hematoma (head blow), aortic intimal tear and minor lung contusions (pulmonary stroke).

The 39-year-old was hospitalized in France until friends gathered around him to raise more than $67,000 so he could fly back to Australia a few weeks ago.

It took a lot to convince Nick to accept financial help from GoFundMe, but he’s hungry to be back in Australia now.

As well as being used for emergency care and repatriation flights, the contributions will be used to support Nick with further medical expenses, living expenses during recovery with no income and any special equipment that may be needed.

The 39-year-old from Brisbane met with three other friends in Annecy, southeast France, in mid-June, where they had planned to fly out into the mountains.
The 39-year-old from Brisbane met with three other friends in Annecy, southeast France, in mid-June, where they had planned to fly out into the mountains.
nneynens/Instagram

Originally from New Zealand, Nick is now planning to return there for treatment at a spine ward.

He said it’s a long road, but while he’s unsure about his prospects for recovery, he remains hopeful.

“I look at it as a rebirth – but I just don’t know exactly how much function I’m getting back.

The 39-year-old was hospitalized in France until friends gathered around him to raise more than $67,000 so he could fly back to Australia a few weeks ago.
nneynens/Instagram

“I’m patient and I’m working on it and I’m not too emotional about it. I’ve had incredible experiences paragliding and this happened to be an unlucky day.”

Nick, who has been paragliding for 15 years, has competed numerous times in the Red Bull X-Alps – the world’s toughest race – held national record flights and explored corners of the world most only dare to dream of.

He is often referred to as a “legend” of the paragliding world.

Nick, who has been paragliding for 15 years, has competed numerous times in the Red Bull X-Alps - the world's toughest race - set national record flights and explored corners of the world.
Nick, who has been paragliding for 15 years, has competed numerous times in the Red Bull X-Alps – the world’s toughest race – set national record flights and explored corners of the world.
nneynens/Instagram

Nick took to Facebook where he shared a lengthy post thanking the donors and all the messages of support he had received from around the world. He also addressed whether he’s likely ever to fly again.

“I always thought this was a risky sport because that’s part of the deal, but flying the day I remember was relaxed and fun,” he said.

“From a few minutes before the incident to a few days after, I have no recollection. will i fly again I’ve never had a dogmatic attachment to flying, I just found it the best value for money to explore nature and have unique and special experiences. But the situation has changed now and it’s too early to tell what the future will bring.”

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