Death of New Zealand paraglider Charlotte O’Leary in France: Bad weather blamed, police say

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Charlotte O’Leary died in a paragliding accident in France last week. Photo / Provided

A French police report into the death of New Zealand paraglider Charlotte O’Leary in the French Alps said strong wind and bad weather were the cause.

Members of the local paragliding club decided not to fly due to bad weather, according to the report.

French newspaper Le Dauphine Libere reported that O’Leary, 30, died shortly after takeoff. She was flying solo.

Fellow paragliders alerted emergency services at 2.30pm after seeing a glider and a body on the ground.

It is understood that officers from the mountain rescue organization PGHM Jausiers surrendered immediately, but O’Leary was already dead, according to the report.

O’Leary, an experienced paraglider, was on vacation in Europe with his brother when the fatal accident occurred last Thursday in Saint-André-les-Alpes.

The region, less than two hours from Nice, is one of the most famous paragliding sites in the world.

Charlotte O'Leary was paragliding in Saint-André-les-Alpes in the French Alps, a two-hour drive from Nice.  Google Maps
Charlotte O’Leary was paragliding in Saint-André-les-Alpes in the French Alps, a two-hour drive from Nice. Google Maps

O’Leary, who studied medicine at the University of Otago and worked at Hauora Tairāwhiti, formerly Tairawhiti District Health, from 2017-19, lived in Queenstown.

She had planned to return to New Zealand for the winter ski season at Coronet Peak and had been involved with the NZ Ski medical team.

NZSki managing director Paul Anderson said O’Leary was an experienced emergency doctor returning for his second season with the mountain medical rescue team.

“People are devastated,” he said.

“To lose someone under these circumstances is very tragic and she was a truly talented and valuable member of the medical team.

“Our sympathies go out to the family – it’s tragic.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the Herald it was helping O’Leary’s family.

“We are aware of the death of a New Zealand citizen following a paragliding accident in France and are providing assistance to the family,” a spokesperson said.

When approached by the Herald, her family this week declined to comment.

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