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Published: Monday, 8/11/2003

Paraglider is killed in Perrysburg Twp. event

Wally Shilts, a powered paraglider who was well-known around the country for his experience in the sport, died yesterday after he crashed during the fifth annual Motorized Paragliding Gathering in Perrysburg Township.

Mr. Shilts, 52, was flying low and making sharp turns when he crashed into the ground about 2 p.m. He was taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead about 6:15 p.m.

“He liked to fly risky, and the risk caught up with him,” Bruce Brown, the organizer of the event, said.

In the late afternoon, about a dozen people lingered at the field near Roachton and Hull Prarie roads where the event was held, waiting to hear news of Mr. Shilts. The gathering drew powered paragliders from all over the country who strap three-foot propellers to their backs and fly while attached to wings that are similar to parachutes.

Mr. Shilts lived in New Paris, Ohio, about 30 miles west of Dayton on the Indiana border. He had been interested in powered paragliding for about five years, Mr. Brown said, and he attended numerous paragliding gatherings around the nation.

“He had a passion for flying. He probably flew more than any of us,” Mr. Brown said. “He was an excellent pilot. He flew very radically, probably more so than any pilot I know. He was always pushing the edge.”

One man at the Perrysburg Township event, who would not give his name, agreed that Mr. Shilts liked to take more risks than most powered paragliders.

“The risks he was taking didn't jive with the risks usually associated with the sport,” the man said.

Mr. Shilts, a machinist by trade, engineered his powered paraglider to take long flights. In an online paragliding forum, he wrote about staying in the air for 2 hours and 17 minutes on a powered paraglider after rigging an extra fuel tank aboard.

Mr. Brown said the paragliding community will remember Mr. Shilts for his “gentle heart,” and said Mr. Shilts' death will hopefully prompt some pilots to be more careful in the air, but should not discourage people from taking up the sport.

“I think it's one of the safest forms of aviation there is,” Mr. Brown said.

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