Sunday, March 01, 2015

Accident occurred March 01, 2015 at Enterprise Park in Calverton, New York

Authorities are investigating the crash of a powered paraglider that left a 49-year-old Shirley man in critical condition Sunday at Enterprise Park in Calverton.

Marcelo Ibarra, who possibly suffered two broken legs, was airlifted by the Suffolk County police Medivac helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital, Riverhead police said in a statement. Police said the powered paraglider crashed about 8:20 a.m. soon after takeoff at the town-owned corporate park, which has an active airstrip and is a former manufacturing and test site for Grumman Corp. military aircraft.

No criminal charges were filed, but the probe of circumstances surrounding the crash is continuing, police said. Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter declined to comment, citing the ongoing probe.

Federal Aviation Administrator investigators were called to the scene by police. But the aircraft was not required to be registered and therefore the accident did not come under the agency's jurisdiction, the agency said.

"The FAA responded to the scene and confirmed the vehicle was not a registered aircraft," FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. Agency investigators would still obtain a statement from the operator of the paraglider, but would have no further role in the probe, she noted.

A man at the scene said he witnessed the accident. But the man, who described himself as a friend of Ibarra's and a fellow paraglider, declined to identify himself while being interviewed by authorities. Riverhead police also declined to identify the witness.

The man said the craft became unstable and Ibarra put his feet out to absorb the impact of the impending crash.

After the accident, "He was conscious, I went to him, took off his helmet, asked him a couple of questions," the man said. "He was lucid, he was awake, he was talking. His leg was hurting him and he basically just worried about his wife."

The man said he then called 911.

The witness, a fellow paraglider, said this is not the season for paragliding.

"This is actually a summer sport; most pilots I know are in hibernation right now. It's too cold for them," he said. "Only the hard-core paragliders are out flying right now."

Powered paragliding is a form of ultralight aviation involving a pilot wearing a motor on his back which provides the thrust to take off using an adapted paraglider or paramotor wing. It can be launched in still air, on level ground or by the pilot alone.

EPCAL, a publicly owned, private-use facility 3 miles west of Calverton's central business district, was given to Riverhead in 1998 by the Navy. Formerly known as the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant, Calverton, the site was used by the Navy to assemble, test refit and retrofit jets built by Grumman.

Town officials have been trying to develop EPCAL into an industrial park.

The site covers 2,921 acres and contains two asphalt and concrete runways used by the Sky Dive Long Island group, which since 2000 has leased the facility from the town for its skydiving activities.

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