Ewa Wisnierska is a female paraglider on the German national team. She was also named the number one female paraglider in the entire world! On one trip to Australia, however, her limits were tested, as she glided into a massive thunderstorm.
The world-class paraglider was blown by the storm winds into blistering cold temperatures more than 20 thousand feet up in the air. She was stuck in the middle of lightning, enormous hail, debilitating winds all while being in complete darkness. She began to freeze. This story is absolutely mind blowing. Keep reading to hear Ewa’s incredible journey and insane bravery.
A Warning Sign
Ewa Wisnierska, along with 200 other paragliders, headed to Mount Borah in Australia. They were anxiously awaiting the beginning of their training for the big upcoming Paragliding World Championship. When they got to the top, ready for their training, they were given a warning.
There was a severe storm watch for the area. The weather really did not look that bad, so Ewa wasn’t worried. She made sure that her GPS and tracking log was good to go; otherwise she felt ready to take off. No one, especially not Ewa or her team, could have expected what was about to happen.
Ready To Go
Ewa Wisnierska got all set in her glider. She began to run, and subsequently launch herself. Her progress was being tracked by the German team, but they were not in the air with her. They would follow her in a van and have communication with her over the radio.
When she started her flight the weather was still fairly decent. There was not really any sign of the impending storm. At this point, she had gone 12 miles and passed a mountain ridge. Little did she know, she was now entering the most dangerous leg of the journey, which was the sky over the savanna.
Ewa Wisnierska and her teammates left a while after the other pilots training at this location. Everyone else seemed to be in the clear and past the clouds, but at this point, Ewa saw two enormous storm clouds directly in front of her. One was even bigger than the next. This did not look good.
Ewa, an Austrian paraglider friend, and a Chinese paraglider were now directly in the storm's path. The Chinese paraglider had been doing this for over 10 years - so he was certain he could navigate this storm. The others agreed, and were confident that they could avoid the storm. But the problem was, they were all alone.
What Can Happen In A Second?
The other members of the German team had landed safely. They were now looking for Ewa. Most of the other people who were paragliding around her, headed back as well, they did not want to risk the storm, and the clouds were not appealing to them. They thought it would be better to land safely than attempt to fly through such a bad storm.
Meanwhile, in the sky, Ewa was doing everything she could to avoid the storm clouds. It was not easy, she had to steer her paraglider around the clouds, rather than under the clouds, to avoid being sucked in and launched up.
A Storm Is Brewing
The small storm clouds that she saw had changed. The clouds quickly took on the form of a major storm spanning over 12 miles. The storm clouds were hovering above the plains below, but her team had no idea what she was dealing with miles above.
Ewa was doing the best she could to avoid flying right into the center of the storm. She was moving left and right trying to get out of the way. Her Austrian friend who was flying beside her was able to steer clear of the center of the storm, but the next thing he knew, he was watching her get launched up directly into the storm.
No Other Choice
Austrian paraglider, Gerald Ameseder, was Ewa’s friend, who was up in the sky with her. He was lucky in his attempts to get himself out of harm's way. He stated that he was able to create enough force by pointing his toes down to get himself out of the storm. He landed safely.
He found himself at a farm. Safe, nonetheless. He was getting pelted with rain and enormous hail. He ditched the glider and went to seek shelter. From a barn that he had found and hidden in, he watched with complete shock what he says was the most dangerous lightning storm he had ever experienced.
The Eye Of The Storm
Ewa Wisnierska was now completely inside the storm clouds. Of course, she was also strapped to her glider, which was propelling her higher and higher into the sky. She was moving fast, upward at 60 feet a second. She knew that she was going to be unable to get out of the tunnel if she did not act fast.
She was moving very fast, directly into the center of the storm. She stated she heard the thunder surrounding her. Everything was going black, and she was losing her vision, fast. Things were getting even more dangerous than she could have imagined.
Alone In The Dark
The severe lightning storm was the only thing Ewa could see. Everything was dark, and she was getting closer to the lightning striking her. She was worried she was going to be electrocuted,as she continued to go higher and higher into the storm. She couldn’t see the damage that was being caused by the thunder and winds, but she could only imagine the devastating effects.
While fighting the storm and trying to stay stable, she was able to call her team below. She let them know she couldn’t see, but that was all she got out before the call got dropped.
Going Higher Up With No Control
Ewa Wisnierska was now in complete darkness, getting propelled higher and higher into the storm. Not only was the lightning surrounding her, but it was also freezing now. The temperature was plummeting - she was starting to shake and shiver. She was unable to get her bearings and continued to be shot upward.
Enormous hail was coming down at her from all angles. Hitting her over and over, and adding extra weight to her glider. She knew she could not get out of the storm now, she was soaking wet, hurt badly and completely in the dark, with nothing but lightning to give her glimpses of the destruction.
Ewa Wisnierska was now unconscious floating in the storm. She blacked out after getting pulled up even further into the sky. She was low on oxygen, since she was pulled atop the cumulonimbus cloud. She was now floating around the sky, still strapped to her glider, but unable to move.
Ewa was now covered in ice. She was hovering in the air so high, that the temperature was 50 degrees below zero. She was, of course, dressed warmly for her flight, but no one can be prepared for such freezing cold temperatures. Her glider was also completely covered in ice and getting weighed down.
Ewa was in an extremely dangerous situation. Every second that went by increased her chances of dying right there in the air. She was now unconscious and getting no oxygen. Her body and her glider were covered in ice, as she entered the wildly low temperatures.
At this point, it was likely that she was going to have permanent brain damage from the lack of oxygen and sub-zero temperatures. That would be the best case scenario, as the other side would be, death. She was now gliding miles above the storm for over 40 minutes, unconscious and unaware of the amount of time she had been floating there.
Still completely unconscious and covered in ice, Ewa began to fall from the sky. The wing on her paraglider was getting heavy with ice. Her harness was also filled with ice. This extra weight made her free fall down. Of course, she had no idea she was falling, no idea the speed she was accumulating. No idea the danger she was in.
Plummeting at the terrifying speed of 90 feet a second, she was now falling down directly into the center of the storm. If she did regain consciousness now, she would crash into the land and surely die upon impact.
A Stroke Of Luck
What happened next was an unbelievable miracle. After plummeting down into the storm for almost 2 miles, all of a sudden her paraglider opened up on its own. The wings came out and stopped her free fall. She started to glide once again and was quickly awoken with the sudden jerking of her fall.
Now that she was finally conscious again, she came to the scary realization that she was still up in the air, stuck in the middle of the devastating storm. She couldn’t move. She was still frozen. How was she going to get herself out of this imminent danger?
Ewa was no longer being pulled up into the sky or in a free fall back down to land. She was thankfully gliding in the sky, but she was not out of danger. She was still in trouble and still in the middle of the storm. Lightning was surrounding her. The risk of getting struck was great. She was getting pelted with hail, and she was still covered in ice and freezing.
Her hands and gloves were also covered in ice and frozen. She had no brakes and couldn’t move her hands or body. How was she going to get out of this life-threatening situation?
At this point, the German team that was gliding with Ewa began to panic. They were searching everywhere for Ewa, but had no idea where she could be. They didn’t know if she crashed, or if she was still gliding through the storm. How were they going to locate her?
The Austrian glider who was able to land after Ewa got dragged into the storm, was still seeking shelter in a barn he found. He was able to contact the German team on the ground and tell them that he saw Ewa get taken into the storm cloud. Now, they all knew the extreme danger their friend Ewa was really in. They knew that if she survived, she was going to need medical attention as soon as possible.
Rising From Danger
Ewa Wisnierska is a polish paraglider. After four years of competing professionally, she became the top woman paraglider in the entire world! She had always dreamed about being a professional paraglider. She traveled all over the world competing and living out of her car.
Ewa dreamed of being the top paraglider in the world, among both men and women. It didn’t matter that she was the champion in Germany, or that she had won the Paragliding World Cup numerous times. She wanted more! Unfortunately, her rise to the top was not easy: she had another accident prior to this devastating glide.
A Bump On The Road
Ewa Wisnierska was in another accident while training in the Swiss Alps, in 2006. She was left with a fractured pelvis. This accident was putting her training in jeopardy. She did not know if she was going to be able to enter the World Championship in Australia, but she was going to try as hard as possible to make it happen.
It was so unfortunate that after working so hard to get prepared for the World Championship in Australia, she had to have yet another accident, this time way worse than before. She was facing death, gliding in the middle of this storm with no oxygen, freezing and with no control.
Ewa had barely regained consciousness, but she knew that she had to land. She knew she had to get out of this situation as soon as possible, before any more damage ensued. She was able to grab the brake and handle on her ice-covered glider. She was numb and barely conscious, but she was able to, somehow, get the glider steady and maneuver it to a nice glide.
She was aware enough to know the danger she was in, and she knew how important it was for her to get out of this storm immediately. It was at this moment that she saw something amazing!
A Light At The End Of The Tunnel
After being on this journey for what seemed like a lifetime, Ewa finally got a glimmer of hope! She was finally able to see land beneath her! She had faced unconsciousness and darkness and now was seeing the light. She was finally feeling hopeful, like she may survive this.
Ewa Wisnierska steered her glider down towards the land. Using her instincts, since she was still woozy from being unconscious, she crashed her glider right in the middle of an open field. Close by was a farmhouse. She was hoping she could make it there to get help. She now knew that she was going to survive, but the terror was not over yet.
Not Out Of The Woods
Now that Ewa had landed, she was laying on the grass in the open field. She was shaking and freezing. She needed to get warm, quick. There was sun above, but not nearly enough to get her into good shape.
She was trapped in her harness because she was so weak. She was suffering from exhaustion, on top of a multitude of other ailments. She knew she needed to get up and get moving, but she could not. She was feeling helpless again, so close to surviving this, but unable to get herself help. At that time, another miracle happened, she heard her phone ringing!
Ewa Wisnierska’s teammates had finally gotten a hold of her! They had spent the entire time on the ground calling her over and over, to no avail. They were not going to give up until they found her. Her signal was poor, as she was up so high in the sky and in frigid temperatures. But they did not give up on her.
Their efforts were not for naught, as finally, her phone rang! She heard the ringing, and despite her weak state, she was able to grab it and answer. She was going to tell them she was alive but needed help, unfortunately, the phone cut out immediately. She didn’t get a word in.
Trying For Coordinates
Ewa was laying in the middle of an open field. She was still freezing, and her temperature was way too low. She was weak and unable to walk or move to get to safety on her own. She needed help.
She had very little cell phone service where she was laying. Her GPS was covered in ice, but she managed to get a look at her coordinates. She decided to try and send a text with her location, so she waited anxiously for her service to return so the message would go through and get to her teammates, who were anxiously awaiting her contact.
Finally Getting Through
At this point, her phone rang, and the service was not as spotty as it had been prior. Her teammates were overjoyed to hear her voice and know that she was alive. They were pressing her for information, trying to get her to help them find her, but all she could exclaim was that she was cold. She pleaded for them to get there fast.
They wanted to get to her, but they needed to know her location, and fast! She was finally able to mutter the coordinates of the field where she was laying, attached to her glider and soaking wet. Now they had the location, they just had to get there in time to save her life.
Still In Danger
Finally, Ewa Wisnierska’s gliding team was able to get to her. The first thing they did was get her safely out of her iced harness. Hail emptied out of the harness, which was essentially keeping her freezing. They got her out and got her sitting up.
They knew the most important thing to do right now was get her body temperature up. They covered her in blankets and attempted to dry her off as best they could. They carried her into their van and laid her down. They knew they had to get her to the hospital as soon as possible. So off they went, in hopes of getting her to safety.
A Very Lucky Ewa
Ewa had just been through the unthinkable! She had soared to incredible heights, survived being trapped in a lightning storm, experienced severe lack of oxygen and freezing temperatures, followed by a glider crash. They were anticipating the worst. Finally, she got to the hospital for the much needed medical attention.
They were expecting the worst when the doctors came out. Instead, the doctors said she was fine and free to go home. She got bandages for some of her wounds and frostbite, but her oxygen and temperature were back to normal. All she left with was some bruises! It was truly another miracle for Ewa!
Ewa began to recount her experience to her teammates. Among the many incredible things - was her GPS tracker. She said that it tracked her ascending over 32,000 feet. This seemed absolutely impossible, her team was reluctant to believe her, blaming the delusion on her lack of oxygen.
Her team figured that her GPS malfunctioned from being through the storm and being covered in ice. They did not think there was any way she could have really gone that high. But to their surprise, it all checked out. She really had gone that high, and she had somehow survived to tell the tale.
Ewa Wisnierska witnessed a miracle. She was wearing a GPS tracker which logged her maximum flying altitude of over 32 thousand feet. No one had ever survived being up that high without protection. She had floated higher than anyone ever had before.
She was just as high as commercial planes, which shows you just how high she really was. To paint you a picture of this insane altitude, picture Mount Everest and Table Mountain stacked on top of each other. She was THAT high. She seemed to have somehow cheated death. You would think that this would put an end to her paragliding career, but she just wouldn’t have it!
Ewa Wisnierska was not going to let this disaster ruin her dreams of training for the World Championship. She was insistent on continuing her training and competing. After all, this was her dream! Everyone was completely astonished when she got back in the air on her glider a mere six days after her accident.
The media had gotten word of her story, and Ewa had several interviews after her recovery. They also joined her back at the exact site where she left on her previous journey. Surrounded by news crews - she made her grand take off.
Reflecting On Her Experiences
Ewa was going back into the sky in the same glider that she had flown in on that fateful day. By some stroke of luck, Ewa survived the storm and so did her glider. It was able to withstand the winds, freezing temperatures, and hail, and now she was about to get back on and glide again.
When she got into the clear, she was able to glide and meditate on her experiences. She got to thinking about another glider who flew with her during the storm, He Zhongpin. He, unfortunately, did not make it out of the storm alive.
The Wind Master
Ewa is currently a teacher, and she also leads an organization for personal development classes. She is a master of bringing her knowledge and real-life experience to aspiring paragliders wanting to compete. She has also competed herself in many more competitions and, of course, won many awards for her gliding. She truly is a world-class paraglider. Some may say, the best in the world.
Ewa survived the unthinkable. She is by far the best example of how to persevere. Her story is incredible, and she is a true survivor. What better a teacher could you ask for than someone who made it through such a death-defying act?