Glider Snags in Tree, Pilot Hurt
A retired Army "Golden Knight" was injured when his parachute glider crashed into a tree in a field near Cameron about noon Monday.
Justin Schilling, 58, of Vass, was trapped in the aircraft, which hung from branches about 50 feet in the air. He was wearing a harness that kept him in the pilot's seat.
It took rescuers about an hour to remove Schilling from the aircraft. His left leg broken in two places. A helicopter took him to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He was listed in good condition Tuesday morning.
"It took a group effort," said Buddy Thompson, said Cameron Fire Chief Buddy Thompson.
The aircraft amounted to what looked like a cart with a fan on the back and a parachute keeping it aloft. Thompson called it a powered parachute.
Apparently, wind blew the craft into a sweetgum tree that was the only tree in the field.
"There was a wind gust, and he wrapped around the tree," Thompson said.
Tom Loving, who owns the wheat and soybean field where the accident happened, witnessed the crash.
"I was hoping he could turn," he said, "but he never did."
Loving said Shilling is retired a retired U.S. Army paratrooper and a former member of the "Golden Knights," the Army Parachute Team.
Loving said that Shilling's wife told him that her husband had done 8,900 parachute jumps without ever suffering an injury.
Rescuers arrived on the scene about 10 minutes after getting the call. Rescue worked needed a ladder truck from Southern Pines Fire Department to reach Shilling and stabilize the aircraft before extracting him. It took rescuers about 45 minutes to remove him.
"We had to stabilize the apparatus so that it wouldn't fall," Thompson said.
As Rescuers worked, several television news helicopters circled overhead. The accident even made CNN.
In addition to Cameron and Southern Pines firefighters, the Vass Rescue Squad, Moore County Fire Marshall and Moore County Sheriff's Department assisted.
Loving gave firefighters permission to cut limbs from the tree to get the aircraft down.
The field, which is located near the intersection of N.C. 24-27 and Cranes Creek Road, is often used for amateur aeronautics. Loving said people fly remote controlled air planes and para-gliders there, said Loving.
"But I've never seen (something like) that," Loving said.
Loving has watched people on powered parachutes before.
"I thought about doing it," he said. "I don't believe I will now."
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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