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Paragliding pilot has long road to recovery after crash near Yarnell, Arizona

Posted at 5:56 PM, Apr 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 21:23:05-04

YARNELL, AZ — “I saw people jumping off a mountain and floating down and I remember saying, ‘I want to do that someday,'” says Steven Grezlak.

As a teenager, flying was a dream for Grezlak. “No motor, no sound, except the wind, and a wing above you is hard to explain.”

Six years ago, Grezlak became a well-known paragliding pilot in Arizona.

“It is an incredibly freeing experience. I had 250 safe flights. 251 was the rare one that just didn’t work out.”

His passion for the sport took a sudden turn. Grezlak says, “I was coming down for a landing in a little area near Yarnell, Arizona and hit some very unusual wind.”

Grezlak hit a downdraft on January 17. During landing, he came down hard on his lower back, fracturing his L1 vertebrae. His pilot friends surrounded him until first responders could airlift him out of there. Before surgery, Grezlak had no movement or feeling from his waist down.

“Went from not even being able to move much to walking 50 feet in the hallway,” Grezlak says.

He credits his progress to seven weeks of physical therapy at HonorHealth.

“Paige and my team down there got me to do things I never thought I could do,” Grezlak smiles.

But because of his injury, Grezlak can no longer feel his feet. “Even though I had my accident, I would still recommend people if they could find a way to do it, it’s an amazing sport.”

With a long road to recovery, Grezlak is setting his sights on a new goal: to move out of his wheelchair within the year.

“It was my day for some reason, I don’t know why but that was my day to have this happen. And now it’s my day to move forward.”

Because of Steven’s accident, medical bills are stacked. If you feel called to help, a GoFundMe has been set up online.