SALT LAKE CITY — His love for the sport, even now, hasn’t faded. Robert McRae, 45, said that is probably because he does not remember falling 200 feet, while paragliding in the foothills near the west face of Grandeur Peak in Salt Lake City.
“I don’t remember the drive up to the mountain, I don’t remember the hike up to the mountain, I don’t remember the flight at all,” McRae said.
What he does remember, in part, are the tireless efforts of the Salt Lake County Search & Rescue team who saved him. Last Tuesday, crews, along with civilians, stayed by McRae’s side as a medical helicopter was en route to take him to the University of Utah Hospital.
“I am so grateful for them all even though I don’t remember much,” he said. “My first memory was just a flash of a helicopter and my second was being here in the hospital.”
Despite his extensive injuries, a broken pelvis, five fractured vertebrae and a severe concussion, McRae is expected to make a full recovery. He is headed to rehabilitation, and hopes to be up and walking in four to six weeks.
“Standing and sitting in a wheelchair is as far along as I am,” he said.
Emergency crews found a paraglider pilot had crashed near the west face of the mountain at about 6,800 feet. Witnesses said they saw part of the glider’s wing collapse before it dropped about 200 feet to the ground, partially opened. .
McRae said although he doesn’t remember how exactly he got where he is, he is grateful to have family by his side.
“When I saw their eyes, the gratitude of me surviving and being here, and telling me I won’t fly again, it’s hard to not listen to that,” he said. “Collapses happen, they are the unfortunate part of our sport, but if you’ve got the altitude to correct it then things turn out better.”