A Colorado man died this week during a hang-gliding accident near Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District.
Craig Pirazzi, 56, of Paradox and Telluride, was dragged off a cliff when strong winds swept through the Indian Creek area just as he was attempting to take off at about 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 24.
According to a press release from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, Pirazzi spiraled uncontrollably, falling an estimated 300 feet. Other gliders rappelled down to Pirazzi in an attempt to render aid, and CPR was administered. However, Pirazzi did not respond and was pronounced dead due to serious head and body trauma.
San Juan County Search and Rescue crews worked through the night as they hoisted Pirazzi’s body and the two other gliders back up the cliff, according to the sheriff’s office.
Four-time world aerobatic hang-gliding champion John Heiney — a close friend of Pirazzi’s — launched off the same cliff just minutes beforehand.
According to Heiney, wind gusts were worsening when Pirazzi launched.
“It was maybe getting to be too strong of conditions,” he told the Moab Sun News.
Heiney said Pirazzi had a real passion for flying in the desert terrain around Moab, and described his friend as a “much-loved, good, honest guy.”