‘Worst that can happen is I get killed’: Local man loses ability to walk, gains ability to fly

Data pix.

FRANKLIN, Ind. -- A horrific work accident left a local man paralyzed, but while he can no longer walk, he can fly.

In June, Collin Sallee fell 35 feet in a work accident. As an ironworker, he was on a structure that collapsed. As he lay on the ground, he says his body was numb, and his feet felt like they were floating.

"There was thousands of pounds of steel around me that came crashing down. Had I landed underneath one, I could have been dead,” Sallee said, adding that he remained conscious the entire time, "It was cool because I was able to tell myself things are going to change."

Prior to the accident, Sallee hiked 650 miles of the Appalachian Trail. During the journey, he befriended Cincinnati firefighter Steve Mets.

“We both started solo hiking on the same day, and the same place. We just happened to hike at the same speed," Sallee said, “About a month [after the accident] he calls me.”

Mets originally had a plan to go sky diving with Sallee to cheer him up, but once he discovered power paragliding, he knew this is what they had to do. Powered paragliding involves wearing a 40-pound turbine motor backpack while using a parachute to glide as the motor provides the lift. Sallee was in immediately.

“I think he said something along the lines of how much more hurt can I get," said Dave Halcomb who owns Midwest Powered Paraglide, and trained Sallee and Mets.

“The worst that can happen is I get killed," Sallee said, "A life that you’re worried about dying is not really worth living."

Mets paid for Sallee's training as well. The crew at Midwest Powered Paraglide had to custom make Sallee his own flying rig. Generally, powered paragliders take off and land on their two feet.

“Most of us are foot launchers, Collin of course launches on wheels,” Halcomb said, “Here in Indiana, where it’s a basically a pool table, we have no mountains, we can’t paraglider, so we power paraglide."

A man who fell 35 feet, nearly to his death, now feels comfortable as high as 1,000 feet up.

“It's just a different perspective on life when you’re in the air," Sallee said.

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