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Authorities Identify Paraglider Who Died in Accident on South Coast

Photo by Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department
Search and Rescue team recovers body of paraglider

A woman who died in a paragliding accident on Thanksgiving Day on the South Coast has been identified as a veteran hang gliding and paragliding instructor.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s officials said 56-year-old Marjorie “Marge” Variano of North Carolina, who used to live Santa Barbara, was paragliding with a large group of friends off Gibraltar Road on Thursday when she disappeared. One of the paragliders spotted a down paraglider about 1,500 feet below La Cumbre Peak at the bottom of the cliff in the Santa Barbara County foothills and called 911.

The rugged, steep terrain made it difficult for emergency crews to reach the location. Authorities say a helicopter hoisted a paramedic down to the canyon where it took a more than hour-long hike before finding the paraglider, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Friday morning, a search and rescue team recovered the body. Eight people were hoisted down by helicopter with ropes, technical rescue gear, a stretcher and brush cutting tools about 175 feet above the cliff where the paraglider was found.  They rappelled down to the location, placed the body on a stretcher and flew it out.

The Coroner’s Office is conducting an investigation to determine the cause and manner of death.