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A 22-year-old paraglider sparked a daring rescue operation in Switzerland on Wednesday after he became entangled in high-voltage power lines, officials said
The man spent nearly three hours dangling from the lines at a height of 160 feet —not far from a 380,000-volt cable.
Swiss rescuers said the paraglider had been blown off course shortly after takeoff near the village of Séprais and found himself trapped, held up by his emergency parachute. He managed to call police on his cellphone and Switzerland's Rega helicopter rescue team was dispatched to the scene along with a large number of emergency personnel on the ground, officials said.
Adrian Schindler — a spokesman for Rega, a non-profit rescue service — told NBC News that the Rega chopper was unable to hover near the lines out of fear its down-force would somehow dislodge the paraglider.
Instead, crew members deployed to the nearest pylon and shuttled climbing gear to the man using specialized miniature sleds so the paraglider — who it did not identify — could fasten himself to the power line more securely.
To reduce the risk of electrocution, the Swiss power company disconnected the electricity from the lines.
However, Schindler told NBC News that the chopper crew "were worried that static electrification could harm our team" so they improvised and exchanged their typical metal rescue hoist for an uncommon nylon rope.
Meanwhile, the local fire department set up a large inflatable mattress below — though it was not clear if the equipment, designed for drops of just 30 feet, would have been able to save the man's life if he had fallen.
The chopper pilot then began a complicated and risky 10-minute maneuver which enabled a rescue crew member to winch down to the paraglider, cut him loose with a knife and airlift him to safety.