During an interview with the Southern Standard last year, local paraglider pilot Bryan Miller talked about the joys of sailing among the clouds, but he also warned of his hobby, “It can kill you.”
Miller was fortunate that didn’t happen Wednesday as he managed to make it to the ground uninjured after dangling from a tree for more than three hours.
“I was ready to come down,” said Miller, whose powered paraglider got caught in a tree, leaving him stuck an estimated 60 to 80 feet off the ground. “I was hanging there sideways and the way I was stuck it was cutting off circulation to one of my legs. I wasn’t hurt but it could have gone very badly. I want to thank all the rescue workers who came out and helped me get down.”
Miller was flying atop Harrison Ferry Mountain around Bluff Line Drive when he became stuck high in a treetop.
“It was foolish really,” said Miller. “I was showing off and instead of turning away from the mountain, I turned into it and I didn’t have enough power to clear the trees.”
Harrison Ferry Fire Department was called out initially at 5:18 p.m. Chief Lynn Curtis requested assistance from Warren County Rescue Squad, which specializes in repel rescue operations. Warren County EMS was called to be on standby.
“When we got there, we assessed the situation,” said Donald Hillis, a Rescue Squad member. “He was anywhere from 60 to 80 feet up and between two trees. The only thing keeping him from plummeting to the ground was his parachute above him.”
Rope operations quickly began in an effort to reach Miller. That effort required rescuers to ascend the trees and get as close as they could without upsetting the delicate balance.
“At that point, we called the cave rescue team out of Hamilton County for their assistance,” said Hillis. “They are part of the Hamilton County Rescue Squad, a special division of caving operations mainly. Brandon Powers is from McMinnville and arrived first, followed by the rest of that team in about 45 minutes. They set up more safety lines.”
Once two lines were secured on each side, attention turned to how best to lower Miller.
“He cut his parachute away from the top of the tree,” said Hillis. “Using the anchor lines on the safety lines, we were able to lower him down to the ground. It was a seamless professional operation. EMS assessed him. He was not hurt. It could not have worked any better with all the agencies there working together.”
During his interview with the Standard last year, Miller said he always carries an emergency parachute during his flights. It was line from that emergency parachute that was vital in allowing Miller to reach the ground.
A debriefing of the agencies was held after the incident.
“After the recue, we did a tabletop debriefing of all the agencies,” said Hillis. “We agreed that, given the unique circumstances, everything went extremely well. We came up with a plan, and we executed it. Mr. Miller helped us the whole time. He was very calm and never got excited. Very professional. We all agreed that if he had been unresponsive and unable to help us in the effort, the rescue would have been totally different in the way we handled it.”
Miller’s feet touched the ground between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m., says Hillis.
When asked Thursday if he’s going to return to the skies in the powered paraglider, Miller said that is yet to be determined.