Pixel Tracker

Sunday, March 24 , 2019, 9:42 am | Partly Cloudy 56º

 
 
 
 

Paraglider Who Died in Crash Near La Cumbre Peak Identified as North Carolina Woman

Body of Marjorie “Marge” Variano, a former Adams School principal, was recovered from rugged canyon 1,500 feet below La Cumbre Peak

A Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Search & Rescue Team member rappels down a steep hillside during the operation to recover the body of a paraglider who died Thanksgiving Day in a crash below La Cumbre Peak above Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
A Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Search & Rescue Team member rappels down a steep hillside during the operation to recover the body of a paraglider who died Thanksgiving Day in a crash below La Cumbre Peak above Santa Barbara. (Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department photo)
Marjorie “Marge” Variano, a former principal at Adams School in Santa Barbara, was a resident of Cornelius, N.C. Click to view larger
Marjorie “Marge” Variano, a former principal at Adams School in Santa Barbara, was a resident of Cornelius, N.C. (Facebook photo)

A paraglider who died Thanksgiving Day in a crash in the mountains above Santa Barbara has been identified as a 56-year-old North Carolina woman.

Marjorie “Marge” Variano, described as a veteran hang-gliding and paragliding instructor, was fatally injured when she crashed while flying with a large group of friends near La Cumbre Peak, according to Kelly Hoover, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

“When she did not arrive to the pre-designated landing area, several of the paragliders in the group began an aerial search,” Hoover said.

“At approximately 1:15 p.m., one of the paragliders spotted what appeared to be a downed paraglider ... down from La Cumbre Peak at the bottom of a cliff and called 9-1-1.”

Personnel from the sheriff's Search and Rescue Team, the county Fire Department, American Medical Response, the U.S. Forest Service and the Scounty Sheriff/Fire Air Support Unit were dispatched to the scene, and eventually located Variano’s body in the late afternoon, some 1,500 feet below La Cumbre Peak.

“Given the steep terrain and fading light, it was determined the recovery effort would be too hazardous for the flight crew and SBCSAR members, and a plan was coordinated for the following morning,” Hoover said.

Crews spent more than five hours Friday traversing the rugged terrain, and setting up rope systems and technical rescue gear to recover Variano’s remains, Hoover said, adding that they were assisted by a county helicopter.

A county helicopter assists in the effort to recover the body of a paraglider who died Thanksgiving Day in a crash below La Cumbre Peak. Click to view larger
A county helicopter assists in the effort to recover the body of a paraglider who died Thanksgiving Day in a crash below La Cumbre Peak. (Stephanie Harmon / KEYT News photo)

The sheriff’s Coroner’s Office is investigating the cause and manner of death, Hoover said.

“It should be noted that because paragliding is a self-regulated sport, the coroner’s death investigation does not encompass technical matters related to the paragliding equipment or paragliding procedures,” she added.

Questions related to paragliding should be directed to the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.

Although the Sheriff's Department identified Variano as a resident of Cornelius, N.C., she had considerable ties to the Santa Barbara area, having served as principal at Adams School from 2007 to 2009.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Search and Rescue Team vehicles stage near the site where a paraglider died in a Thanksgiving Day crash. Click to view larger
Search and Rescue Team vehicles stage near the site where a paraglider died in a Thanksgiving Day crash. (Stephanie Harmon / KEYT News photo)

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

Email
I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.