Unsuspecting female killed in glider race accident in Pingtung

2019/11/03 15:32:03 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Photo courtesy of Hengchun Precinct police

Photo courtesy of Hengchun Precinct police

Taipei, Nov. 3 (CNA) An investigation has begun into the death of a woman who was killed by an unpowered model glider during an official race in the Kenting area in the southernmost Taiwanese county of Pingtung Saturday.

The aircraft, operated by an American glider pilot, crashed into the 35-year-old mother at 4:50 p.m. during the F3F Radio Control Soaring (Slope) World Cup at Lungpan Park on the eastern coast of the Hengchun Peninsula.

The woman fell and immediately lost consciousness after being hit. Her 2-year-old son, whom she was holding at the time of the accident, suffered a cut on his neck but was fine otherwise, according to Hengchun Precinct police.

The mother was pronounced dead at the scene while her son was sent to a hospital to be treated.

Police are now determining whether the organizer of the event, the Taiwan R/C Slope Glider Association, or the American who operated the glider, was involved in negligent homicide or assault in the case.

After the accident, both the American, identified as 57-year-old David Cortina, and association head Tseng Kuo-tung (曾國棟), were summoned for questioning.

Tseng left the precinct Saturday night after giving his statement while the American was still answering questions as of 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Cortina's session was delayed until Sunday morning after the arrival of an attorney.

On Saturday night, Cortina told police that he had a smooth start before he sensed that his plane went missing. Shortly after that, he heard people shouting that someone was hit by a glider, he said.

It was the first time such an accident has happened in Taiwan. According to an association member, F3F gliders have a wing span of three meters and can weigh over four kilograms.

Experienced F3F glider pilots at the scene told reporters Saturday that given that the crash site was located over 500 meters away from the competition venue, they suspected a sudden strong gust was the culprit behind the deadly accident.

The competition requires pilots fly their remotely operated gliders 10 laps around a 100-meter course.

The gliders were released from a cliff near Lungpan Park toward the ocean, and the course was over the water or the coastline, but the deadly flight actually went back over the takeoff area into the park where the woman was enjoying a stroll.

Family members of the victim from Tainan, known only by her surname Lin (林), told police that Lin was in the park to spend time with her son rather than to watch the glider competition.

"It's really unjust that she was struck down while walking on a national park path," a family member said.

Describing the airborne disaster as "unbelievable," Lin's father demanded national compensation.

Hsu Ya-ju (許亞儒), the director of Kenting National Park Headquarters, which gave permission for the competition to be held, said it was the fourth year that the FAI F3F World Cup 2019 Taiwan Open was being held at Lungpan Park.

He believes the organizer followed the rules that the race venue must be separated from the park's walking paths, and he said he had no idea why the deadly accident occurred.

The four-day competition has been suspended, Hsu said, and Lungpan Park, recognized as one of the best locations for remote-controlled slope glider competitions in Taiwan, will not be allowed to host any similar competitions in the future without safety assurances by the organizer.

(By Kuo Chih-hsuan and Elizabeth Hsu)
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