Sunday 17 November 2019

Heart attack during flight caused crash

Paraglider Rafal Skóra died while flying over County Wicklow

Myles Buchanan

A father of three who died when paragliding in the Wicklow mountains suffered a heart attack, an air accident report has found.

Rafal 'Ralph' Skóra (41) was originally from Poland but was living in Artane, north Dublin, where he worked as a taxi driver. He lived with his wife Dominika, three-year-old son Benjamin and 12-week-old daughter Julianna. He also had a 21-year-old son Jakub from his first marriage lives in Poland.

A post mortem examination carried out as part of the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) report found that he died from a heart attack. It states, 'The cause of death was acute myocardial infarction, due to, or as a consequence of occlusive coronary artery thrombosis with atheroma'.

Prior to becoming involved in paragliding, Mr Skóra had been a skydiving instructor operating in Poland, Ireland and the United States. In April 2015, he commenced Paragliding training in Slovakia. On 17 April 2015, he obtained his Paragliding licence (issued by the LAA SR) and also held an International Pilot Proficiency Identity (IPPI) card issued by the Fědération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). At the time of the accident, he was a member of the Irish Hang-gliding and Paragliding Association (IHPA) and held a Para Pro 3 Rating, i.e. the practical and knowledge requirements necessary to fly without being under the supervision of an instructor.

On May 11, Mr Skóra had arranged to meet a fellow paraglider at 8.30 a.m. and they then both proceeded to a car park in Lacken. From there they hiked with their paragliding equipment to a launch point on Sorrel Hill, which took approximately 30 minutes, arriving there at approximately 10 a.m.. While waiting for some low cloud to clear, the two pilots set up their equipment and completed safety checks.

Mr Skóra gained height and then proceeded in a south-easterly direction towards the Glenmalure Valley. A mobile phone application used by the pilot showed the entire flight, from the launch point to the north slope of Ballinacor Mountain where his body was found the next morning.

Mr Skóra was carrying two mobile phones with him at the time, which contained commercial flight-planning and tracking software. Both mobile phones were recovered intact by the Investigation. Recorded data showed that he had been airborne for an hour and 33 minutes.

The second pilot sent a phone message to Mr Skóra at 2.18 p.m., but when it wasn't delivered, he assumed his friend was still airborne. He sent another message at 4 p.m. and at 4.30 p.m. he returned to his car parked at Lacken.

Four hours later, Mr Skóra's wife contacted the second pilot, concerned that she had not been contacted by her husband. She then reported him as missing to the Gardaí.

Mr Skóra's body was found the following day at 7.30 a.m. by members of the Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team and was pronounced deceased later that morning by a Doctor who attended the scene. His body was still attached to the Paraglider by its harness.

The Paraglider wing was recovered, deflated on the ground - all lines lay on the surface untangled and undamaged. The reserve parachute was still packed and the activation handle was in its normal stowage position.

The post mortem report also found that 'no fractures were identified' in the musculoskeletal system. Toxicology tests found that ethanol was not detected nor was the presence of drugs detected on preliminary screen.

The Paraglider wing and lines were packed and shipped to an approved service centre for in the United Kingdom for the purposes of an inspection and condition report. The Paraglider was 14 months old at the time of the accident. The report concluded that the Paraglider was generally in very good condition and that there was nothing identified that might cause or contribute to it failing.

Bray People