'May never walk again': Paraglider Nick Neynens' future bleak after HORRIFIC crash in French Alps
Paragliding champion Nick Neynens, who fell badly on a cliffside whilst paragliding in the French Alps, may never be able to walk again, his doctors said on Sunday, July 24. Midway through June 2022, when the accident occurred, the Australian legend met up with his three other pals in Annecy, which is located in southeast France. Nick and his friends were intending to take a helicopter out into the hills. With a clear sky, little wind, and no indication of any danger, Nick described the environment as comfortable and welcoming.
In an interview with news.com.au, Nick mentioned that he had flown to tons of places with various conditions so that places did not seem dangerous. But a day into their journey, the 39-year-old had a glider breakdown and crashed violently into a rock wall. Unfortunately, his backup canopy had not had enough time to fully extend out. Nick was seriously hurt in the terrifying mid-air collision. He is currently experiencing a spinal injury and is immobile from below the waist. Nick has been admitted to the ICU at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.
"I remember a few minutes before the accident. The actual accident I don’t recall, but I know I hit the ground twice. I was on the ground for a while after I crashed the first time, then somehow I got picked up by a gust of wind which, I believe, reinflated my parachute, causing the second crash – which did the most damage. My friend, who was last to take off, saw the crash from the air and immediately arranged for a rescue helicopter," Nick told news.com.au from his hospital bed.
Nick recalled scaling the Col des Aravis high before deciding to cross to the other side when he became aware of the wind coming from the west. He mentioned that he was just under 400m from the scene of the accident when he was stuck in a trough towards the wind while doing multiple spins in a mild tailwind. He made a couple of rotations as he looked for a lift before falling to the ground.
Nick was transported by air to Annecy Hospital in France, where back surgery was performed on him to secure an L1 spinal fracture. He also suffered from a subdural hemorrhage, an aortic intimal rupture, and mild pulmonary bruising.
The paragliding legend had been receiving treatment at a hospital in France up until a few weeks ago when his friends came together to collect over $67,000 so he could return to Australia. Nick was reluctant to accept GoFundMe's financial assistance, but he was delighted to be home in Australia.
The message on his GoFundMe page says, "The idea of Nick asking for help is unfathomable to him and predictably he resisted the idea. After finally convincing him to accept financial support we are now setting up this GoFundMe campaign. We aim to raise funds so Nick can get home and live by his ethics of freedom and independence."
"Nick, his Mum, and Xpyr supporter Andrew ‘Dobbo’ Dobinson plan on flying back to Brisbane, Australia very soon, where Nick will spend time in the PA hospital, while he, his family, and medical team figure out the flight path for the future," it continued.
The donations were used to pay for Nick's emergency care and return flights, as well as for any specialized medical supplies he might need. They would be used to help Nick with future medical expenses, rent, and bills while recovering without a job and other needs.
Even though he is unsure of his chances of recovery, Nick stated that he is still optimistic.
"I think of it as being born again – but I just don’t know for sure how much function I will get back. I am patient and working through it, and I am not too emotional about it. I have had amazing experiences paragliding and this just happened to be one day of bad luck," he told the news outlet.
With 15 years of experience, Nick has raced in the Red Bull X-Alps, the hardest paragliding race on Earth, set national records, and been to parts of the world that are beyond our imaginations.
Nick sent a lengthy letter on Facebook and Instagram thanking people who contributed and for all the words of support, he has gotten from all across the world. He also talked about whether or not he would ever fly again.
"I always thought this was a risky sport with this kind of thing being part of the deal, but the flying on the day that I remember was relaxed and fun. From a few minutes before the incident to a few days afterward, I have no memory. Will I fly again? I’ve never had a dogmatic attachment to flying; I’ve just found it the best value bang for the buck to explore and have unique and special experiences in nature. But the situation has changed now and it’s too early to say what the future will bring," a part of his message read.
Nick had also uploaded a video on YouTube sharing the updates on his condition.