It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … paraglider stuck in a tree

  • A paraglider stuck in a tree off Rt. 141, also known as Mountain Road, Saturday, May 30, 2020. EASTHAMPTON POLICE

  • A paraglider stuck in a tree off Rt. 141, also known as Mountain Road, Saturday, May 30, 2020. EASTHAMPTON POLICE

  • A paraglider is rescued after being stuck in a tree off Rt. 141, also known as Mountain Road, Saturday, May 30, 2020. EASTHAMPTON POLICE

  • A paraglider is rescued after being stuck in a tree off Rt. 141, also known as Mountain Road, Saturday, May 30, 2020. Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team

Staff Writer
Published: 6/1/2020 1:44:57 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Firefighters rescuing a cat from a tree — it’s a classic pop cultural image. But over the weekend, local first responders found themselves conducting an altogether different treetop rescue.

Easthampton’s police and fire departments responded Saturday just after 4 p.m. to a paraglider pilot stuck in a tree off Rt. 141, also known as Mountain Road. Realizing they would need assistance, they called in the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team, which performs difficult rescues across the region.

“It was a pretty intensive operation because of safety concerns,” said Daryl Springman, the team’s assistant director.

Springman said the paraglider was stuck some 80 feet in the air at the top of the tree, which itself was 300 feet down a steep embankment. Just to get their equipment to the tree required a rope line.

Initially, a state police helicopter assessed the possibility of an air rescue of the pilot but determined it was too risky, Springman said.

“There was no way for us to shoot a line up to him, there was no good access to him,” Springman said. So working with a rescue arborist, the team thought of a different approach. “We put in place some safety lines, and we were able to get a rope up above him so we could lower him down safely.”

The pilot was unhurt, and Springman said the rescue — not the first to remove a paraglider from a tree — proves the need for the team, which works with municipalities to share expertise across the region.

“The depth of our team is so great between the knowledge of all the people we have,” he said. “It’s very difficult for any one department to take on that burden.”

The effort included assistance from other departments, including Holyoke Fire, which used a drone to assess the situation.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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