Man serious after crashing into cliff

A HANG-GLIDER pilot remains in a serious condition after hitting the face of a cliff in the Watagans and dangling unconscious for more than an hour.

Witnesses saw the glider veer into the cliff beneath the Hunter Lookout in the Heaton State Forest about 1pm on Christmas Eve.

Jason Sattler from the Cessnock District Rescue Squad said rescue crews arrived at the scene and found the man dangling upside down from his harness.

The glider had become entangled in several small trees and paramedics were unable to reach it.

When members of the rescue squad made their way down the cliff, they found the man unconscious but breathing.

‘‘The immediate priority was to secure the glider along with assessing and securing the patient,’’ Mr Sattler said.

Because of the steep and rocky terrain, a NSW Ambulance Service rescue helicopter was unable to winch the man to safety, and instead he was lifted to the top of the lookout by a vertical rescue haulage system.

It took the volunteer rescuers about 90 minutes to secure the injured man to a stretcher before lifting him to safety.

Sections of the glider frame also had to be cut away.

It is understood the man suffered head, spinal and internal injuries and was flown to John Hunter Hospital.

A Hunter New England Health spokeswoman said he was in a serious condition yesterday.

Mr Sattler said the rescue operation was long and delicate.

‘‘Due to the nature and complexity of the incident emergency personnel from various services attended the scene and all worked extremely well together in very adverse conditions, including 40-degree heat.’’

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