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February 10, 2014

RI man dies in paragliding accident

Coast Guard pulls victim from Merrimack River

PLUM ISLAND — An afternoon of winter adventure ended tragically for a Rhode Island man late Saturday when the engine on his powered paraglider ceased, sending his pleasure craft crashing into the waters just off Plum Island.

Aldaro Etcheverry, 49, of Smithfield was pronounced dead at the scene despite an immediate 911-emergency call from a good Samaritan who was watching and a quick response from a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Coast Guard Station Merrimack River. It was the Coast Guard boat that pulled the victim from the chilly waters off Plum Island Point in about 20 minutes, but the victim never regained consciousness, according to Coast Guard officials and police.

“Because of the fast work, they gave this man every chance to survive,” said Brian Fleming, command duty officer for Coast Guard Sector Boston.

“He was in the water about 20 to 30 minutes from the time the engine quit till the time the Coast Guard took him out of the water and began administering CPR to him at about 5:25. We don’t know whether he was injured in the fall or whether it was from drowning or something else, like cold water shock,” Fleming said.

Cause of the man’s death remained under investigation, pending the results of an autopsy.

The temperature of the water near the accident scene was 38 degrees Saturday. The air temperature was 28 degrees, according to Coast Guard officials.

“I’m sure he was dressed well for air temp, but certainly wasn’t dressed for the water. When it comes to water, 38 degrees is cold,” Fleming said.

The man came to Plum Island with a group of others to spend the afternoon flying on both sides of the Merrimack River in pleasure craft known as powered paragliders or paramotors.

“It’s an over-sized sports parachute with a small engine strapped to one’s back,” Fleming said.

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