New Zealand doctor dies in tragic paragliding accident in France two years after she took up hobby


Woman’s incredible photo about her ‘new hobby’ takes on tragic meaning less than two years after she posted it as she dies doing what she loved in French Alps paragliding incident

  • Charlotte O’Leary tragically killed in one of the world’s best paragliding spots
  • Experienced paraglider posted about her ‘new hobby’ just 18 months ago
  • She was about to return home to New Zealand to work as emergency doctor
  • Shattered friends, former colleagues and patients led outpouring of tributes

A bright young doctor’s love of paragliding has come to a tragic end, less than two years she first took to the skies to experience the thrills of the extreme sport.

New Zealand woman Charlotte O’Leary was killed doing what she loved in a freak accident in the Saint-André-les-Alpes, one of the world’s most popular paragliding spots in the French Alps.

The experienced paraglider was on a European adventure with her brother and was weeks away from returning home for the winter ski season to work as an emergency doctor at the Coronet Peak resort near Queenstown.

Eighteen months ago, Ms O’Leary informed friends she had taken up the extreme sport by posting a stunning photo from Treble Cone Ski Area on New Zealand’s South Island.

‘New hobby,’ she captioned the photo of herself paragliding.

Charlotte O'Leary was tragically killed in a paragliding accident in the French Alps, 18 months after she took up the extreme sport

Charlotte O’Leary was tragically killed in a paragliding accident in the French Alps, 18 months after she took up the extreme sport

Charlotte captioned this incredible photo of her paragliding as 'new hobby' just 18 months before she died doing the sport

Charlotte captioned this incredible photo of her paragliding as ‘new hobby’ just 18 months before she died doing the sport

Ms O’Leary’s social media is filled with photos from her travel and paragliding adventures around the globe.

A week before her death on June 2, Ms O’Leary was at Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli in the Swiss Alps, 730km north of Saint-André-les-Alpes.

She posted a photo of a house built within a mountain amid the incredible backdrop of the Swiss Alps. 

‘Almost more paragliders than hikers!’ she wrote within the comments.

Located in south-eastern France, Saint-André-les-Alpes is one of the world’s best paragliding sites with long mountain ridges and 300 days of sunshine each year.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed the department was aware one of their citizens had died during a paragliding accident in France and was providing assistance to the family.

Her body is in the process of being repatriated home.

Charlotte O'Leary was killed in a freak accident in Saint-André-les-Alpes, an internationally renowned paragliding spot

Charlotte O’Leary was killed in a freak accident in Saint-André-les-Alpes, an internationally renowned paragliding spot

Ms O’Leary graduated from University of Otago and previously worked at Hauora Tairāwhiti District Health.

Originally from Macraes Flat, three hours east of Queenstown, she had spent the last 12 months living in Queenstown and was about to start a fourth season as a doctor at the nearby Coronet Peak ski resort.

‘People are devastated,’ NZ SKI chief executive Paul Anderson told the New Zealand Herald.

‘Losing anyone in these circumstances is very tragic and she was a really talented and valuable member of the medical team.

‘Our sympathies go to the family – it’s tragic.’

Charlotte O'Leary was a doctor who weeks away from returning home to work as an emergency doctor at a New Zealand ski resort

Charlotte O’Leary was a doctor who weeks away from returning home to work as an emergency doctor at a New Zealand ski resort

Her death sparked an outpouring of grief from shattered friends, former colleagues and patients.

‘Devastating news – amazing doctor- thoughts are with your family,’ one woman wrote online.

A former colleague added: ‘Was so sad to hear the news, you were a great doctor that we all enjoyed working with. Thoughts are with your family & friends.’

A third person wrote: ‘Was shocked when I heard about it. Gonna miss you.’

Ms O’Leary is the second Kiwi in seven years to be killed while paragliding in the French Alps. 

The doctor's social media portrays a passion for travel adventures and extreme sports

The doctor’s social media portrays a passion for travel adventures and extreme sports

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