DUNNELLON, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Tomas Banevicius, 40, of New York, is dead after investigators say the hang glider he was in fell some 35 feet and slammed into the ground at Marion County-Dunnellon Airport, in Dunnellon Tuesday night. Investigators said Banevicius was in the hang glider around 6 p.m. Tuesday night. He was the only student in a training session and had taken off in the glider, using a power tow-line to get up into the air. Witnesses saw something was wrong.
“Witnesses indicated the Hang glider took an abrupt right turn and then headed to the ground,” Lieutenant Ryan Robbins with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office explained. The glider fell to Earth and slammed into the ground at Marion County-Dunnellon Airport. Lieutenant Robbins said Banevicius was pronounced deceased on the scene.
According to investigators Banevicius was on his third training session of the day with U.S. Hang Gliding, Inc. out of New York where they do seasonal training work in Marion County. Six people were on the ground, but Banevicius was the only one in the air. Investigators said he’s been flying with the company in New York for a couple months. This was his first time flying in Florida.
"Out of respect for Tomas' family, we have no comment at this time. He was a student who was here to learn," William Estes, co-Owner of U.S. Hang Gliding, Inc., told Fox 35’s David Williams. Estes also told Fox 35 everyone involved, including Tomas, was following national hang gliding standards. Estes said everyone involved is fully licensed with the U.S. Hang Gliding Association.
“Nothing’s been reported to indicate this is anything more than, anything other than an accident. Of course, we are going to do a thorough, responsible investigation,” Lieutenant Robbins said.
The Sheriff’s Office said the Federal Aviation Administration is not investigating this crash.