70-year-old paragliding lawmaker rescues friend injured in a crash
An Anchorage lawmaker regularly paraglides from the top of Mt. Roberts above Juneau, and Monday afternoon he was forced to help a friend who suffered a skull fracture from a paragliding fall.
Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, 70, is a retired Navy SEAL with nine years of active duty experience and 24 years in uniform. He tries to make the steep hike up Mt. Roberts three times a week.
Shaw estimates he has flown from the top of the mountain 25-30 times since lawmakers gaveled into session in January.
On Monday, his love of death-defying activities became terrifying. He was paragliding when his friend, who was flying with him, got caught in a wind shadow behind a cruise ship and fell 50 feet.
“Somewhere in the fall his helmet got knocked off,” Shaw said.
Landing five minutes later, Shaw found his friend unconscious with a large pool of blood under his head. He called 911 and administered first aid.
An ambulance arrived, and his friend is making a full recovery, expected to be paragliding again in two or three weeks.
Shaw sounded largely unperturbed by the incident. Shaw himself had experienced a crash paragliding in Spain but walked away unhurt.
He puts his love of risk-taking activities to his experiences as a frogman. “It’s part of who we are, we participate in activities that make us feel alive,” he said.
The veteran, who is also an ultra-marathon runner, has had two knee replacements and is contemplating a shoulder replacement.
“We try to stay this side of dirt for as long as we can,” Shaw said. “The more active you are, the healthier you will be.”
Remaining philosophical, it’s clear that he isn’t going to stop paragliding anytime soon.
“I live for the day, today is all I’ve got. Tomorrow is going to be brand new and you have no idea what it’s going to bring.”