Outer Banks man drowns after powered paraglider crashes into ocean near Avalon Pier

There was a cloudless sky and light winds at Avalon Pier on April 7, 2020. [Kari Pugh photo]

Despite the valiant efforts of Good Samaritans and first-responders, a 52-year-old Kill Devil Hills man drowned Tuesday morning after his powered paraglider crash landed in the Atlantic Ocean near Avalon Pier.

According to police, an eyewitness on the beach said the powered paraglider appeared to run into trouble and went down about 50 yards offshore of the 2100 block of North Virginia Dare Trail around 6:55 a.m.

The Good Samaritan called 911, then grabbed a wetsuit and two surfboards to attempt a rescue. Kill Devil Hills officers arrived on scene and were able to lower a rescue rope to the victim.

The pilot, identified as William B. Koebornick, was alive but was trapped in his harness. Between the efforts of the Good Samaritan and the officers, they were able to temporarily stabilize him.

However, the weight of the powered paraglider’s motor, the entanglement of the harness and the persistent wave action caused the pilot to be pulled underwater and drown.

Kill Devil Hills Ocean Rescue and Fire Department arrived and aided in the lifesaving and recovery efforts. Lifeguards ultimately had to cut the pilot free from the harness to free him.

The glider gear could still be seen suspended from the pier on Tuesday. [Kari Pugh photo]

The ocean conditions at the time were 2-to-4 foot seas and the water temperature was approximately 54 degrees.

“The department would like to thank the Samaritan on scene who attempted to rescue the pilot,” said Kill Devil Hills Police Chief Gary Britt. “The bravery and selflessness of this individual cannot be overstated.”

“The department would also like to thank the Dare County telecommunicators who helped organize the response and rescue efforts,” Britt said.

Koebornick and his paraglider were a common sight around Kill Devil Hills. Last year, he survived a crash into some trees near the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

He was also member of the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island dive team, and received high praise for his generous work as a volunteer at the aquarium.

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Sam Walker was news director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 WCMS and Z 92.3 from August 2011 to March 2022.