A paraglider pilot had a lucky escape after crashing into a tree in Mount Maunganui and free-falling 6-8m to a busy road below.
The man crash-landed about 4.45pm yesterday, near the Oceanside Apartments on Marine Parade, as stunned eyewitnesses eating and drinking at nearby restaurants and cafes looked on.
Gemma Ellis, a waitress at Blue Restaurant and Bar, said she was parked across the road when she heard the man yelling out and turned to see his paraglider clip the edge of a beachfront Norfolk pine before he plunged on to the road.
"I thought to myself 'holy crap' and ran over to help him, as lots of other people did. He hit the road really hard but managed to stagger up himself before I got to him. He said he was all right but he was really quite lucky that there were no cars coming," she said.
St John ambulance staff attended and it was believed the man may have injured an ankle.
He was treated at the scene but not transported to Tauranga Hospital.
Wayne Roberts, safety officer at Mount Paragliding Club, said it appeared the man had hit some bad air and couldn't turn. The wing-tip of his paraglider then clipped the tree.
"He then fell from a good height, possibly 6-8m, and ended up on the road. He was definitely quite lucky he wasn't hit by a car," he said.
The man was among a group of five paragliders, including Mr Roberts, who were returning from a flight around the northern side of Mauao.
The group had been flying about 15 minutes when the crash occurred.
Mr Roberts said the man was flying a high-performance paraglider and was "very experienced".
"It's very rare for something like this to happen," he said.
As club safety officer, Mr Roberts said he would be conducting a full investigation and filing an incident report.