Family of ‘human swan’ say she is brave and pay tribute to support paramotorist

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The family of a woman seriously injured while attempting a world-first paramotor circumnavigation of mainland Britain have said she is “brave” and paid tribute to her support paramotorist who died in the accident.

Sacha Dench, known as the “human swan”, and Dan Burton, a member of her support staff, were involved in a paramotor accident in the western Highlands of Scotland on Saturday.

Mr Burton died at the scene and Ms Dench is currently receiving treatment in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for serious but not life-threatening injuries.

She was attempting a 3,000-mile Round Britain Climate Challenge ahead of the Cop26 international climate conference due to start on October 31 in Glasgow.

Her family released a statement via the Conservation Without Borders charity, which was founded by Ms Dench.

It said: “Sacha’s parents, Steve and Ursula and the Dench Oord family would like to extend our since condolences to the family of Dan Burton.

“Dan has supported Sacha during their expedition from Russia and their journey around the UK.

“Dan, we have taken great comfort in knowing that Sacha had your strength and support. You have become a part of our family and we will miss you.

“You lived life to the fullest.”

The statement continued: “To our Sacha, we love you dearly, you are a fighter, you are strong, you are brave get well soon.”

They also thanked the members of the Conservation Without Borders and Flight of the Swans team and the emergency services.

Mr Burton’s family also released a statement, paying tribute to their “beloved husband, son, father and brother” and saying their family is “utterly heartbroken”.

They said: “Dan was a very experienced pilot, a pioneer in technical diving and para motoring and a true adventurer.

“He was proud to support Sacha on her journey around the UK in an electric paramotor, to raise awareness about the inspiring action people are taking to tackle climate change.”

The statement added: “Dan’s life was dedicated to exploration and he believed there was no challenge that could not be overcome. He would want us all to continue the fight to protect our precious planet.”

The family said they have “Sacha and her family in her thoughts and we wish her a speedy recovery”.

They also thanked the emergency services, the Conservation Without Borders ground crew and those who lent their support since the accident, which happened near Loch Na Gainmhich in the far north-west of Scotland on Saturday afternoon.

The Round Britain Climate Challenge, which Ms Dench and her team were taking part in, has been put on hold.

The PA news agency understands that Ms Dench had been flying on Saturday with Mr Burton, whose role includes documenting the climate challenge from the air, taking film and photographs.

They had landed before taking off again at around 3.30pm.

The ground crew, which communicates with the fliers and pick them up when they land, thereafter lost contact.

Ms Dench had begun her climate challenge in June, taking off from Stevenston in North Ayrshire.

Over the following months, she had flown across the UK, most recently flying over the Kelpies in Falkirk on September 3.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police Scotland can confirm that a 54-year-old man has died and a woman has been seriously injured following a collision involving two paramotors on Saturday, 18 September.

“Police were informed about the incident near Loch Na Gainmhich by the A894 shortly before 4.45pm and inquiries to establish the full circumstances are ongoing. The next of kin of those involved have been informed.”

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