Tributes flow for hang-gliding fire fighter Adam Parer

THE death of Adam Parer has sent reverberations throughout the tight-knit local and international hang-gliding communities, with dozens of his contemporaries paying tribute to one of the world's best aerobatic pilots.

Mr Parer was killed on Sunday after he lost control of his hang-glider and crashed at Bar Beach.

World-record holder and multiple national champion Jonny Durand led the tributes online, recalling the time Mr Parer taught him how to loop: "He gave me that confidence to push the limits and one of my favourite things was to tow up alongside Adam and perform aerobatics side-by-side. A truly sad day for the hang-gliding community. You were a true gentleman and humble at everything you did, both in the sky and on the ground. RIP."

Long-term Newcastle Hang Gliding Club member Simon Plint said "Adam Parer was the pilot all other pilots aspired to be able to fly like."

"More importantly, Adam was also a great human being who had time for everyone," Mr Plint wrote on Facebook.

Tony Barton, who owns Air Sports Newcastle where Mr Parer was a part-time instructor, was gliding with him on the day he crashed.

"With his experience it's highly unlikely a manoeuvre would go bad ...," Mr Barton said.

Losing a gifted and humble brother

Hang-glider Adam Parer, 46, was a firefighter at Hamilton Station, where his helmet was poignantly on display yesterday.

Hang-glider Adam Parer, 46, was a firefighter at Hamilton Station, where his helmet was poignantly on display yesterday.

By ASHLEIGH GLEESON and SAM RIGNEY

FIVE years ago when Adam Parer cheated death, he reserved his final thoughts for his late wife.

The accident occurred at a hang-gliding competition over the Central Tablelands in 2009. It was something the popular firefighter explored in his blog, outlining the terror of losing control followed by a distinct feeling of calm washing over him. 

“I hoped that if this was going to happen to me, then I would be with her soon,” he wrote. “Then I felt content for the first time in four months.

“My soul mate, taken away so early in our life together with whom I had shared so much in seven years of marriage ... pain was no longer on my mind and I felt calm.

‘‘After a few moments an awareness came over me, I was not dying, I would survive, and this was not my time.’’

Mr Parer, 46, died on Sunday when his hang-glider crashed into the front of a home at Bar Beach. His distraught brother, Damien, said the accident in 2009 had been a turning point after his wife, Laurence Deckel-Parer, died of Crohn’s disease.

Mr Parer suffered 10 broken ribs, a collapsed lung and broke his sternum in three places. However, he was determined to recover and make the most of life.

“As soon as he was out of hospital, he was into getting himself rehabilitated, getting back to work, getting into the water, going swimming and doing a bit of surfing again,” brother Damien said.

 Adam and Laurence shared a special bond and his brother was “devastated” when she died of the chronic illness.

“Like we are now,” he said. “Their relationship was something else, it was fantastic.  

‘‘They met through hang-gliding. She knew someone that had something to do with hang-gliding and they ended up getting together and getting married.

“She was his world and it was a very strong relationship.”

Damien said he and his mother, Antonia, were still in a state of shock over what had occurred.

“You don’t believe it, I still expect him to turn up now,” he said.

“You can’t take away the pain and the loss, it’s just something you have to put up with.”

Describing Mr Parer as “a genuinely good person”, Damien said his brother was gifted at everything he put his mind to, yet extremely humble.

“He was very good at everything he did, it didn’t matter,” he said. “But he never used to go around singing his own praises.”

Damien said his brother would always help others, playing a big part in why he became a firefighter at Hamilton Station for 14 years.

“I think he enjoyed helping people and he enjoyed just being part of that service to the community,” he said.

Mr Parer was the last person he thought would have an accident while hang-gliding because he was so responsible.

“He’s always loved flying,” he said. “He would fly at every opportunity provided the conditions were right and it suited it.

“If it looked dodgy or if it didn’t look like it was going to be right, he wouldn’t go.

“He always checked his gear thoroughly, he always checked other people’s gear and gave them advice and looked after them and made sure they were doing things correctly.

“He’d been doing it for over 20 years.”

  Newcastle Hang Gliding Club stalwart Simon Plint said the community had lost a great pilot. 

‘‘I’m sure that the seagulls would look on, as did I, and say: ‘I wish I could do that’,’’ Mr Plint wrote on Facebook.

 Mr Parer taught James Pallas, 24, everything he knows about hang-gliding.

And when he  died on Sunday, Mr Pallas, 24, said he lost a close mate, mentor and a ‘‘big brother’’.

Mr Pallas said he had idolised him before the pair even met. 

As an aspiring young hang-glider, Mr Pallas   regarded Mr Parer as a god in the sky, a man ‘‘born half bird’’. 

That was about two years after Mr Parer’s crash in 2009 and the man himself had not yet returned to the sky.

Mr Pallas said he was standing on a launch site at Merewether when Mr Parer approached.

‘‘I introduced myself a bit and asked him if he would like to have a fly of my glider.,’’ Mr Pallas said.

‘‘I thought he was going to say no, but he jumped off and launched perfectly straight up, and from then on we flew endless hours together and formed a close friendship. 

‘‘We would go hang-gliding until dark, then we would go for dinner and talk about the day, then do it again the next day, we had lots of good times.’’

‘‘He was a god in the air, so fluent, he taught me everything I know about hang-gliding, he helped me through relationships and break-ups, he was humble and peaceful, a big brother to me.

‘‘I wanted to be like Adam, he was an absolute perfectionist, no one else in the world compares to how smooth he was in the air and how knowledgeable he was.’’

Mr Pallas said  Mr Parer’s passion for hang-gliding was rivalled only by his love for his family and his two labradors, Oscar and Puzzle. 

Mr Pallas said he had ‘‘thought endlessly’’ about his next time on a glider since Adam’s death.

‘‘I’m definitely going to fly, absolutely, I think Adam spent so much time teaching me what I know, that to not fly would be throwing something special away,’’ he said.  ‘‘It would be more respectful to Adam to do it the way he taught me, I think that’s what he would have wanted me to do.’’

Adam’s crew at Hamilton Fire Station were still grieving  yesterday, but firefighter and Merewether local Matt Jackson said the service had lost one of the good guys. 

‘‘He was a lovely guy, a really nice-natured guy, he would do anything for anyone, softly spoken, a real genuine fella,’’ Mr Jackson said.

‘‘He had a rough trot, his accident at Gulgong in 2009 would have killed a lesser man, but he was so fit. 

‘‘I know his death has really shocked his crew at Hamilton Station, in the fire brigade your work mates are like your brothers, they are like your family, you live together four days a week.

‘‘His shift at Hamilton are really close,  they socialise outside of the job as well and [it’s] really sad for those guys to have lost a brother.’’

Adam Parer showing off his revolutionary backside tube ride. Source: Mark O'Neill.

Adam Parer showing off his revolutionary backside tube ride. Source: Mark O'Neill.

At home on the waves and in the sky

By SAM RIGNEY

BEFORE he ruled the skies over Newcastle, Adam Parer was a smooth and naturally gifted junior surfer who revolutionised  tube riding with his back to the wave at Merewether Beach. 

A firefighter and experienced hang-glider pilot, Mr Parer died when his hang-glider crashed at Bar Beach on Sunday afternoon. 

He grew up during the early 1980s, regarded as the start of the golden era of surfing for Merewether, and regularly caught waves  and competed against a quiver of future professionals.

And, legend has it, Mr Parer, with his uncanny style and flawless tube riding, more than held his own. 

‘‘Adam was one of the most gifted surfers of his time in a generation that boasted Nick Wood, Luke Egan and Matt Hoy,’’ Merewether Surfboard Club life member Tim Ryan said yesterday.

‘‘On his day, back in that era, he was often the best surfer in the water, he was an uncanny tube rider forehand and pioneered backside tube riding (see picture on the front page).

‘‘No one from Merewether who grew up anywhere near that generation wouldn’t remember him being one of the best surfers on the beach, there were not too many more naturally gifted.

‘‘He was a great guy, always humble and liked and respected by all that knew him. I am sure similar will be said of him by his ballet, martial arts and hang-gliding communities and all will be similarly surprised at how good he was at each of his other disciplines.’’

Mr Ryan said a well-known story about Mr Parer’s freakish balance was that he could walk along a 25-metre paling fence.

 Surfboard shaping guru Sam Egan said Mr Parer could have turned pro but chose a different route: ‘‘Everything he did, he did pretty well.’’

Another Merewether   stalwart Dave Anderson remembered Mr Parer for his competitive surfing and friendly face: ‘‘He grew up in the golden time in Merewether surfing when it was dog eat dog and he would be the one eating the most.’’ 

The scene of the accident at Bar Beach on Sunday in which Adam Parer lost his life.

The scene of the accident at Bar Beach on Sunday in which Adam Parer lost his life.

Investigators begin search for answers over accident

By LILY RAY

[The scene of the accident at Bar Beach on Sunday in which Adam Parer lost his life.]

THE Hang Gliding Federation of Australia will lead the investigation into the death of Adam Parer.

Operations manager Brett Coupland said locally-based investigators would work with police to examine evidence and statements relating to Sunday’s crash.

‘‘At this stage we can’t say how long the investigation will take; the investigators need to work through a lot of material,’’ he said. The  federation,  which is based in Victoria, will also provide a report to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

A spokesman said the authority did not investigate accidents. That was the role of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

‘‘In the case of sports aviation accidents, it is also the responsibility of the peak body administering the sport,’’ he said.

Newcastle Hang Gliding Club safety officer Tony Barton said extensive training was demanded of would-be hang-gliders before they  were permitted to fly.

A  seven- to 10-day course must be undertaken at an accredited school such as Newcastle Hang Gliding Club and students don’t progress until they have mastered every step.

All instructors and schools followed the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia’s teaching syllabus which is consistent with global  programs.

‘‘We’re very regulated and this is the first major hang-gliding accident in Newcastle for 20 years,’’ he said. 

‘‘But this wasn’t a student accident. This was one of the rare incidents where one of the most skilled pilots around was doing a very advanced, dangerous manoeuvre.

‘‘He was one of Australia’s best,’’ Mr Barton said.

The Hang Gliding Federation of Australia Incorporated is a sporting body that administers hang-gliding, paragliding and weight-shift microlights under Civil Air Safety Authority regulations.

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