Originally created 07/10/98

Pilot survives parachute crash



WINTERVILLE, Ga. -- A Texas man is looking for a new hobby after flying his powered parachute into a 14,400-volt power line near Winterville.

Dan Christian, 42, had some nasty-looking cuts on an upper arm but escaped serious injury after his powered parachute didn't quite clear the top power line as he crossed over Wednesday morning.

Mr. Christian, who grew up in Winterville, was demonstrating the device for his parents, who with his sister and children watched in horror from a nearby field as the device clipped the top power line, collapsed on itself, swung Mr. Christian into a small tree and then slammed him onto the road.

The power line actually was already dead. An automatic switch had cut power to the lines when Mr. Christian slammed into the top span, said an electrical worker at the scene.

"I did the worst thing you can do," said Mr. Christian, explaining how a moment's hesitation and the wrong decision caused the mishap.

"I feel stupid, but lucky," Mr. Christian said. "I'm sorry I got bummed up, but happy it's not worse."

Mr. Christian's accident is a fairly typical type, said Bear Perkins of Nicholson, a certified instructor in using the devices who sells a different brand of powered parachute called a Buckeye.

"It's considered to be the world's safest aircraft," Perkins said of powered parachutes in general. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's pilot error (that causes accidents)."