US tourist dies of suspected heart attack paragliding in Colombia


An American tourist has died while paragliding with friends in Colombia. 

Investigators are exploring the possibility he could have passed away while in the air. 

The incident took place in the area known as Damasco, in the municipality of Santa Barbara, in the southwestern Colombian department of Antioquia where the tourist, named in reports as Rafael Thomas Zakota, was paragliding. 

Head of the local firefighter department Nicolas Villada said it’s possible he could have died ‘of natural causes’ while in the air.

Zakota’s body has been sent to forensic scientists but the results of their examinations have not yet been revealed.

Villada sais: ‘The paraglider apparently died in the air and then fell, according to the images we have, with no vital signs.’

Some reports suggest he may have suffered a heart attack, however others speculated that strong winds could have caused him to fall. 

Antioquia police commander Luis Fernando Arcos, said Zakota had arrived in Colombia with five other people, whose nationalities were not revealed, to go paragliding together.

He said: ‘The group lost communication with the victim who finally died. Their hypothesis is that the winds caused him to fly low and caused his death’.

He added: ‘We do know that the paragliding jump in Santa Barbara was not authorised, they did it independently as they had not communicated it or requested authorisation to do so’.

It reportedly took several hours to find the victim’s body as he fell in an area which is difficult to access.

Reports state the process of repatriating the victim’s body has begun.

Villada said the area is known for the Cerro Amarillo take-off spot for paragliders and added: ‘Twenty days ago we had another accident with a person who also fell, and was injured, but he did not die and was taken to Medellin.’

The incident comes after another US citizen Michael O’Daniel died in a paragliding accident in the municipality of Jerico, also in the Antioquia area on January 29.

Local paragliding expert Felipe Arboleda told local media: ‘Tropical countries, including Colombia, are places where the conditions are difficult to fly, it is not calm especially in the afternoon.

‘You can find more turbulence, problems that will require more control, and need more experience.’ 



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