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Pilot killed in hang glider crash during San Bernardino aerobatics contest

June 7, 2010 | 10:00 am

One man died of his injuries after he plummeted to the ground in front of hundreds attending a hang gliding competition.A 60-year-old man has died after his hang glider broke during a San Bernardino aerobatics event and he fell 300 feet to the ground, authorities said Monday.

Thomas Richard Mayer of Carpinteria was performing a loop at Andy Jackson Air Park about 6:45 p.m. Saturday when the wings of his glider collapsed and he was unable to deploy his parachute, said witnesses and officials with the San Bernardino City Fire Department.

“When he was finished performing the loop, there was more strain on the glider than it could handle, and the glider broke,” said Megret Olewiler, president of the Crestline Soaring Society, which hosted the competition. “He’s a 38-year veteran of hang gliding, and he loved doing loops. It’s not like he was doing something new. It’s just things went wrong this time.”

Firefighters at the scene for an unrelated reason responded to Mayer’s fall. Minutes later, hang glider Bill Soderquist of Temecula crashed after a similar situation. Soderquist, 56, managed to deploy his parachute before he hit the ground.

Mayer was taken to Community Hospital of San Bernardino, where he died less than two hours later, said Teri Lay, an investigator for the San Bernardino County coroner's office.

Soderquist was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center with several broken ribs, Olewiler said.

The Crestline Soaring Society is a nonprofit club for hang glider and paraglider pilots. Saturday's event was the first aerobatics competition hosted by the club.

-- Corina Knoll

Photo: KTLA