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World’s ‘luckiest woman’

February 17, 2007

SYDNEY, Feb 16: A German paraglider told reporters on Friday how she survived after being catapulted to an altitude of 30,000 feet by a deadly storm then managed to land in a semi-conscious state and covered in ice.

Experts hailed Ewa Wisnierska, 35, as ‘the luckiest woman in the world’ after she survived the storm in eastern Australia that sucked her glider to an altitude higher than Mount Everest.Another paraglider, He Zhongpin of China, was killed when the same violent weather front hit the New South Wales town of Manilla, where Paragliding World Championships will be held later this month.

Both fliers ignored advice not to go on training runs as the storm approached on Wednesday but Wisnierska said she soon found herself unable to avoid the bad weather.

Wisnierska’s equipment showed the storm’s convection current sucked her up to about 30,000 feet, the cruising altitude of a Boeing 747 and about 1,000 feet higher than Mount Everest.

The Polish-born German said she blacked out for about 40 minutes in the freezing, oxygen-deprived environment.

“I could hear lightning in front of me, behind me, around me,” she told reporters. “I was shaking and everything, but I thought I just need to fly straight and get out of this cloud,” she said. “I thought I need to go down just to warm up.”

She recalled feeling like an astronaut returning from the moon as her landing approached. ''I could see the Earth coming -- wow, like Apollo 13 -- I can see the Earth,'' she said.

“I don't know who to thank, I thanked the angels, but I don't believe in God,” Wisnierska said.—Agencies