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R.I. man dead after powered paragliding crash off Plum Island

A 49-year-old Rhode Island man died late Saturday afternoon after crashing into water while power paragliding off the northern tip of Plum Island, according to Newburyport police.

“It appears that during takeoff he experienced some sort of mechanical issue,” said Police Lieutenant Richard Siemasko. The man was in the water for 20 to 25 minutes after going down about 50 yards from shore. “It’s just bitterly, bitterly cold — you don’t have a lot of time in the cold water like that,” Siemasko said.

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Newburyport police responded to the call around 4:47 p.m. Siemasko said that part of Plum Island is “remote,” and that it took police about seven minutes to get there.

“Unfortunately he was so far from shore,” Siemasko said. “We got there and couldn’t reach him from shore.”

At 4:58 p.m. Coast Guard Station Merrimack River responded to call from a person who had witnessed a “parachuter” go down, said Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist Myeonghi Clegg.

The Coast Guard “immediately launched a 47-foot motor life boat, which able to arrive on scene and retrieve the man at about 5:05 p.m.,” she said.

Newburyport Fire Lieutenant Rick Thurlowsaid said the Fire Department met the Coast Guard within 20 feet of shore, where the man was transferred onto the department’s amphibious vehicle, which brought him to shore and to a waiting ambulance.

Siemasko said the man was unresponsive at the scene. Coast Guard and emergency medical technicians performed CPR and the man was taken to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport where he was pronounced dead.

Siemasko said the man was with two friends who were on shore at the time. He said two people tried to swim to the man but were unable to reach him, and both were treated for exposure.

Siemasko said he didn’t know if it was his friends who tried to rescue him.

He said the man’s paragliding apparatus included a propeller strapped to his back and a collapsible sail. The water temperature was 38 degrees, according to the Coast Guard.

Siemasko said the man’s name will not be released until the next of kin can be notified.

Anne Steele can be reached at anne.steele@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AnneMarieSteele.
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