Woman scientist, 43, nearing end of record 3,000-mile paragliding journey around UK is seriously hurt and member of her support crew, 54, is killed in horror mid-air smash over Scottish Highlands
- Sacha Dench, a relative of Dame Judi Dench, fell from the sky after colliding with member of her support crew
- Dan Burton, 53, who was in separate paramotor, died as a result of the mid-air crash in the Scottish Highlands
- Miss Dench, a relative of Dame Judi Dench, is in hospital with serious injuries which are not life-threatening
A scientist dubbed ‘the human swan’ for flying around Britain in a motorised paraglider has been seriously injured in a horror mid-air crash in which another flier died.
Sacha Dench plummeted from the sky during her 3,000-mile journey after colliding with a member of her support crew.
Dan Burton, 54, who was in a separate paramotor, died and Miss Dench, 43, remains in hospital after suffering serious injuries.
The biologist – a relative of Dame Judi Dench – gained her nickname after raising awareness of the plight of Bewick’s swans by flying from the Russian Arctic to the UK.
She also set a world record in 2016 by being the first woman to cross the Channel by paramotor.
Miss Dench and Mr Burton were trying to complete a circumnavigation of the country as part of the Round Britain Climate Challenge and were in the final stages when disaster struck.
Scientist and paraglider Sacha Dench (pictured) plummeted from the sky on a 3,000-mile journey and record attempt around the UK after colliding with Dan Burton, a member of her support crew who died during the crash in the Scottish Highlands
Pictured: Paraglider pilot Dan Burton, 54, who was killed in a crash near Unapool in the Scottish Highlands this weekend
They aimed to fly around the country in wind and green electricity powered paramotors ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
A final photo taken by Mr Burton and shared on his Facebook at around 8am on Saturday shows clouds rolling in over hills near the village of Tongue in the Scottish Highlands.
At around 4.45pm, emergency services raced to the scene of the accident near Lochinver but Mr Burton could not be saved. Miss Dench’s condition is not thought to be life-threatening.
Originally from Australia and now living in Bristol, she is the chief executive of Conservation Without Borders, which is running the expedition. Last night the charity said: ‘In the last stages of the Round Britain Climate Challenge, a major incident occurred involving the lead and support paramotors.
Paramotorist Sacha Dench in flight as she passes the Kelpies near Falkirk as she arrives back into Scotland as part of a world record breaking challenge aimed at raising awareness about the effects of climate change (pictured on September 3)
Famous fan: Sacha Dench pictured with celebrity supporter Joanna Lumley who has supported her circumnavigation attempt
‘We are very sorry to have to confirm that Dan Burton, the support paramotorist, has died.
‘Sacha Dench is seriously injured and is being treated in hospital.’ It added that both were ‘highly experienced paramotorists’ and as a result of the accident the challenge has been halted.
Miss Dench is known for global expeditions with migratory species but has turned her focus to climate change after losing her family home in Sydney to bushfires last year.
Dame Judi and Sir Ranulph Fiennes have backed previous missions, including a flight over the Atlas mountains. For her latest challenge, Miss Dench was flying a specially adapted machine which enabled her to take off and land anywhere to recharge.
Sacha Dench at the Kelpies near Falkirk as she arrives back into Scotland as part of the world record breaking challenge
The location of the crash has become popular with paragliders. Hugh Morrison, councillor for North, West and Central Sutherland, said: ‘We are seeing more paragliders in recent years, especially in and around Durness.
‘It is shocking and upsetting this has happened.’
The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association said it would be undertaking a ‘formal investigation’ into the accident.
A spokesman said: ‘We cannot speculate on the causes of the incident. The investigation report will be published in due course.
‘The BHPA can confirm that both pilots were BHPA members and they were qualified to fly powered paragliders.’
A Police Scotland spokesman last night confirmed Mr Burton’s death in a collision involving two paramotors.