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High hopes pilot will walk again

An experienced pilot’s crash-landing in Papawai had everyone fearing the worst.

But after several hours under the knife, it seems glider pilot Michael O’Donnell will walk again.

Wellington Wairarapa Gliding Club [WWGC] president Simon Casey said O’Donnell suffered significant injuries in a “hard landing” at Papawai Airfield on Saturday.

However, he said the prognosis was “looking good” after O’Donnell underwent surgery this week.

“Feeling is starting to return to his right leg.

“He may have back pain, or walk with a limp, but he is going to walk again, and that is the main thing.”

Casey said O’Donnell, a senior glider pilot and former Carterton District Council candidate, would be transferred to Christchurch’s Burwood Hospital today for an expected three to four month’s rehabilitation.

Burwood is one of two service providers in New Zealand renowned for spinal injury treatment.

O’Donnell was flying his personal glider on Saturday when it detached from the winch launch for unknown reasons.

Emergency services responded to reports of a crash at the Tilsons Rd airfield at 3pm.

The Greytown Volunteer Fire Brigade was forced to use specialist cutting equipment to extract O’Donnell – dismantling the glider around him in a prolonged operation.

Life Flight’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter flew O’Donnell to Wellington Hospital for initial treatment.

He was subsequently transferred by plane to Christchurch.

Casey said the incident had left the entire club shaken.

“It’s the first injury accident we have had

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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