Woman Left Paraplegic After Paragliding Accident Set For Court Battle For Justice

Agony Continues For Woman Who Suffered a Serious Spinal injury During an ‘Illegal’ Tandem Paraglide In South Africa

06.03.2015

The case of a British woman who suffered a horrific spinal injury during a tandem paraglide is set to be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa after the aviation authorities in the country appealed a High Court Judge’s decision that they were liable for her injuries.

Diane Bewick, of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, instructed specialist International Personal Injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell after a tandem paraglide went dramatically wrong, sending her crashing into a cliff face and leaving her paralysed from the waist down. 

Expert lawyers at the firm have been working to secure the 44-year-old funds for vital care and rehabilitation along with specialist equipment and adapted accommodation.

At a High Court trial in South Africa the judge ruled that The South African Hang gliding and Paragliding Association and The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were at fault for Diane’s injuries.

Judge Gamble  who presided over the case believed that had the association and CAA done all they should with regard to enforcing the rules for using tandem paragliding for commercial gain, Diane Bewick would not have agreed to fly.

Diane believed that this was the end of her ordeal which originally started ten years ago, however it will unfortunately now continue as the defendants have continuously denied liability and launched an appeal against the original court ruling in Diane’s favour.
The Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa is now set to hear the case on 9 March 2015.

Expert Opinion
This has been a horrific time for Diane and her family. The simple fact is that had Diane known that commercial tandem paragliding was illegal in South Africa, she wouldn’t have flown and therefore would not have been injured.

“This incident has totally changed Diane’s life. After victory in the High Court, we were hoping that she and her husband could begin the process of moving forward with their lives but unfortunately their wait for justice continues.

“We will continue to fight for Diane and push for a further favourable court decision. Diane has suffered enough and it is vital that justice is done for her and her family.

“Diane deserves the best possible care and rehabilitation. She will have treatment and care needs for the rest of her life which a favourable judgment should provide for her.”
Demetrius Danas, Partner
Diane, who has had to significantly reduce the hours she works as a Radiographer since the incident, travelled with her partner, and now husband, Mike Bewick on a business trip to Cape Town, South Africa in April 2004. She suffered a serious spinal injury when she agreed to pay for a tandem paraglide. 

The professional tandem pilot and Diane were not long in the air when the wing collapsed leaving the paraglider uncontrollable resulting in a collision with a cliff face. Diane was left paralysed and stranded, whilst the pilot was able to scramble to the top of the cliff. Diane then had to wait several hours before being rescued by a helicopter. 

Diane spent three weeks in a Cape Town hospital after the accident and then had further treatment and rehabilitation at the James Cook Spinal Unit in Middlesbrough. 

Unfortunately for Diane she suffered serious fractures to her spine, right tibia and fibula and left ankle, leaving her paraplegic and needing the use of a wheelchair.

Ahead of the appeal, Diane said about the continuing nightmare: “I was so relieved when the judge ruled in my favour as the accident happened over ten years ago. 

“It is heart breaking that the Defendants have decided to appeal but hopefully justice will prevail for my family.

“Being in a wheel chair is a constant reminder of the accident and impacts regularly upon all aspects of my life. For example, it is no longer as easy to visit friends or family or go on holiday as we are limited to rooms which have disabled access. I have also had to reduce my hours at work. Despite this, I have not let my disabilities put my life totally on hold.  I have since married the man I travelled with and he has been a rock through my agonising rehabilitation.

“I will continue to fight along with my husband and my legal team at Irwin Mitchell so we can move forward in our lives and I can focus on the care I require.”

Our serious injury solicitors could help you claim compensation if you have suffered a serious back or spinal cord injury as the result of an accident. See our Spinal Injury Claims page for more information.