Paraglider injured in fall

Posted: Friday, September 22, 2000

A local athlete was severely injured in a paragliding incident an hour before sunset Thursday.

Racing cyclist Julie Graves, 42, was paragliding in the Mendenhall Valley. After taking off from Thunder Mountain, she glided down toward a traditional landing spot, a grassy area near Floyd Dryden Middle School, and fell from a height of about 50 feet, said fellow paraglider Marcy Larson.

The report of the accident reached emergency crews at 5:50 p.m.

"It seemed to have been a hard landing," said Lt. Brian Long of Capital City Fire & Rescue. "It's unknown if it was due to wind currents, without speaking to the victim."

"She was coming in for a landing and managed to stall her wing," Larson said. She fell about 50 feet. She said she just 'fell out of the air.' She didn't know how she did it, except she may have been turning too sharp."

Larson said four people were flying together.

"She was the first one down, so none of us saw it. She radioed up that she had had a hard landing and was going to lie there for a little bit. We all came right down. When we saw her, she was in good spirits, but we wouldn't let her move around," Larson said.

Marijo Toner, regional affairs coordinator for Bartlett Regional Hospital, said Graves was treated for a spinal injury at the emergency department. She was discharged at 9:10 p.m. and medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Her husband, Dan Graves, is with her in Seattle.

"She is in stable condition. She can move her toes, but from what they said, her spine has been pretty much shattered," said Dirk Cooper, who works with the injured woman's husband at Valley Lumber. "We're all just kind of waiting to hear something."

Sgt. Troy Wilson of the Juneau Police Department said the agency considered the accident "an incident, not a case" and was not investigating.

Graves, a competitive cycler, competed in the Tour of Juneau earlier this summer her first race in about two years after having knee surgery.

"She is always a fierce competitor but always a friendly competitor," said Dave Ringle, communications coordinator for the Juneau Freewheelers bicycle club.

"It was enjoyable at the end of the race to be cooling down and discuss strategy with someone who was interested in everyone's having fun," Ringle said today.

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