Harvey Foster, from Holme, died on September 12, 2021, while undertaking a cross-country flight in the southern French Alps.
The 58-year-old was seen by an eyewitness on the ground at around 2.30pm experiencing difficulty controlling his canopy before ‘going into a spin’ and falling 30 metres into a rocky outcrop near the commune of Aspres-sur-Buech, in the Hautes-Alpes department of south east France.
Assistant Coroner for Cumbria Craig Smith heard at Cockermouth Coroner’s Court details of an investigation into the accident by French authorities.
The inquest heard that Mr Foster had purchased a ‘much more high performance’ Category C canopy a month earlier, having previously flown mainly with a Category B canopy.
Category B canopies were described as having ‘good safety and high tolerance, suitable for pilots in the learning phase’.
The court heard that Mr Foster had not undertaken the necessary safety training courses designed to fly with the more high-performance, ‘less-forgiving’ Category C canopy.
The eyewitness account from hang glider Regis Orand said that conditions were ‘not good’, and that many of his hang gliding colleagues were ‘shaken’ from flying that day.
He said he saw Mr Foster flying ‘much too close to a cliff’, at a distance of 10 metres, turning 180 degrees to the left, and then trying several times to correct himself.
He described him gaining height, and the right side of the canopy close up, at which point he went into a spin, and fell to the outcrop.
Emergency services reached the scene at around 3.15pm but had difficulty reaching the site due to the steep, rocky terrain, and having to be taken up by helicopter.
He was pronounced dead by a doctor at the site at 4pm, who judged him to have died instantly.
The investigation estimated that Mr Foster had collided with the outcrop at around 70mph.
No defects or faults with Mr Foster’s equipment were found, and the investigation concluded that the incident occurred due to ‘pilot error’, and that he had insufficient training to recover from the error.
Based on the postmortem carried out on Mr Foster, Mr Smith concluded that he had died from multiple traumatic injuries sustained from a fall from height.