The body of a Kiwi paraglider pilot and former Wānaka resident who went missing in Nevada, US has been recovered after a four-week search.
James "Kiwi" Oroc Johnston went paragliding on August 22, where he took off from the Shoshone Mountain range in Nye County. His last recorded GPS location was just south of Eureka, Nevada.
An extensive search and rescue operation was suspended by authorities after a week, but a private search coordinated by his family continued with a team of volunteers - both on the ground and online, with people worldwide studying satellite imagery for clues.
His wing was located on September 18 after a couple travelling through the area called in a sighting of a parachute billowing in the wind. The wing, an Ozone Zeno, was found tangled around bushes about 16km downtrack of Oroc’s last known point.
A search of the immediate area led to the discovery of his body the next day. Search team member Amanda Jane said that he was found “peacefully at rest under a tree,” and although the circumstances that led to his death were still unclear, “after seeing his equipment, combined with knowledgeable opinion, we are relieved to believe that James died instantly.”
“Although the search to recover him took weeks, it is comforting to know that he did not suffer and was not waiting for us to show to save him,” said Jane.
A dual citizen of the US and New Zealand, Oroc has been a worldwide paragliding athlete and writer for over 30 years. He reportedly began paragliding after he moved to Wānaka in the 1980s.
On behalf of Oroc’s family, based in New Zealand, and other search organisers, Jane thanked the Eureka County Sheriff’s office and the Eureka County Search and Rescue Service for their support, along with the many volunteers who helped in the search and the thousands of donors who raised almost 100,000 USD to fund it. Jane said it had been “humbling” to see so many come together.
“As a veteran pilot of 30 years in the worldwide paragliding community, Kiwi connected with an incredible network of pilots who rallied from all reaches of the globe to find him. We cannot thank you enough for your ingenious efforts, the combined intellect and mastery of the team behind the search who formulated possibilities against all odds was extraordinary.”
The Wānaka Sun extends its deepest sympathies to Oroc’s friends and family in New Zealand and the US.
Read edition 993 of the Wānaka Sun here.