Paraglider runs half-marathon after breaking back in crash

Rescue of Dave Tighe, who was in a paragliding accident
Rescue of Dave Tighe, who was in a paragliding accident
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A paragliding medic has told how he crashed 80 feet down a mountainside and broke his back – as his fiancée watched in horror.

Even though Dave Tighe can’t remember a second of what happened, he was later told he instructed the rescue team on how to treat him.

Dave Tighe and partner Karin

Dave Tighe and partner Karin

The dad-of-two almost died in the Lake District crash, but is now planning to run a half-marathon to thank those who saved him.

He said: “I feel very lucky and so glad to be alive. I was rescued from a difficult location well over 1,000ft up the mountain.”

Dave, 42, who lives in Hutton but works as a medic on a North Sea oil platform, was left fighting for life after the wing collapsed on his paraglider, shortly after he launched from Tarn Crag in Great Langdale in May last year.

But he said he had no memory of what happened. Dave said: “It’s been quite bad for everyone else because I’m blissfully unaware of how bad it was for them.

“I’m missing about six days, and about 20 minutes before the accident.

“I remember walking up the hill having a lovely morning.

“We were staying in Windermere, I walked down and sat by the waterfront, had a coffee, and thought I would head up the mountain on my own and go flying before Karin and my friends were up.

“Conditions were quite good, I found the launch point eventually, and unbeknown to me they had all turned up and were watching from below.

“So they saw me launch, but then saw the wing fold and hit the top of the cliff and rip up and go over the edge and fall about 80 feet.

“But I don’t remember – the next thing I remember is five or six days after in hospital, but apparently I was conscious the whole time.”

He said he later spoke to one of the medics who helped him, and found out he had been instructing the rescue team on how to save him.

He said: “I said, ‘Be honest with me, was I crying like a girl?’ He said ‘No, you were having a laugh with us and giving us instructions on what we should be doing’.”

The rescue team was reluctant to move Dave because of his spinal and chest injuries, but he was unable to breathe because of a collapsed lung and asked medics to move him.

He said: “It was life over limb and eventually they did move me.”

Experts from the Great North Air Ambulance Service, Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team and the RAF Sea King worked together to save Dave’s life, before he was flown to Royal Preston Hospital.

Following surgery, Dave is now on the road to recovery, but has been left about 3cm shorter after the accident.

He is now in training to run the Village Bakery Wrexham Half Marathon in North Wales, along with his wife-to-be Karin Delday, to thank the teams for their part in his rescue.

He said: “I think running long-term isn’t going to be the way to go because I don’t have a back designed for running, but I can at the moment and I think in the short term the training is helping.

“I wasn’t fit enough to run a half- marathon before the accident, but I think that’s the aim now to get myself to a position where I’m better than where I was.

“I won’t be paragliding again. Everything was destroyed, and to buy everything and start again would be a bit stupid, and it wouldn’t be fair on the family.”

Dave and Karin will run the 13 miles on February 14, ahead of their wedding in May.

He said: “Karin, as always, will be alongside me the whole time, as she has been throughout this recent rollercoaster.

“Running is the hardest and probably the most painful thing that I can currently do to myself. I haven’t done anything more than jog a few miles in the last 15 years and that was when I was well.

“Running is problematic. That’s the mechanics, five spinal vertebrae held together with any screws and scaffold isn’t a body addition that supports flexibility or shock absorption. 

“Long-term running will not be the choice of activity for me but for now I want to do it because I can.

“I will complete this half-marathon, even if it ends with a crawl.”

He said: “Dozens of rescuers mobilised to the location and scaled to the scene with admirable skill and fitness.

“Two of these agencies rely entirely on donations for their funding, hence the reason for my up and coming pain!”

Grahame Pickering, chief executive at GNAAS said: “We are thrilled at Mr Tighe’s fundraising efforts and inspired by his story.

“His rescue involved many different agencies, each with their own skillset, to provide the best outcome for the patient.

“We want to wish him the best of luck for his run and thank him for his support.”

So far, more than £1,600 has been raised.

l To donate, visit sponsorme.co.uk/davetighe/feetontheground.