Documentary on One

Birdy

A German paragliding champion who survived being sucked into a storm that pulled her higher than Mount Everest.

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4.3/5 (50 ratings)

Documentary maker: Michael O'Kane

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Birdy

In the eye of the storm, spinning out of control about five kilometres above the ground, Ewa Wisnierska closed her eyes.

"I just wanted to come down and survive," she recalls. "And I didn't care where."

Wisnierska, 35, a German paraglider pilot, was about to be rocketed to the cruising altitude of a Boeing 747.

Hailed as the luckiest woman in the world after surviving a storm cell that sucked her higher than Mount Everest during a flight over northern New South Wales.

Ewa spent 40 minutes unconscious while being carried to 9946 metres. She was pounded by hail the size of melons, narrowly avoided lightning, endured temperatures as low as minus 50 and was covered in ice.

A Chinese paraglider sucked into the same storm cell, He Zhongpin, was found dead 50 km from where he entered the storm. The pair were among 200 paragliders taking part in training flights for a Paragliding World Championships in Manila, NSW.

Ewa says she felt like an astronaut returning from the Moon as she landed. "I could see the Earth coming - wow, like Apollo 13 - I can see the Earth," she said.

She was sure her chance of surviving was "almost zero".

In this documentary Michael O Kane pieces together the events of that incredible day and gives us an insight to the life and psyche of a talented and remarkably fortunate woman and her almost mythical journey.

First broadcast Saturday 28th August 2010

Produced by Michael O'Kane

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.


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