A paragliding enthusiast from London today told of his “miracle” survival after crash-landing during a flight in Brazil.
Thomas Antalffy, 54, said he does not remember anything between blacking out when he hit the ground during a late afternoon flight over Governador Valadares and waking up covered in blood in the middle of “the bush” the next morning.
The experienced paraglider, who lives in Kew, managed to pack up his parachute, carry the 20kg bag to the nearest highway and hitchhike back to his hotel in central Brazil.
But it later emerged he had broken his back and fractured his skull.
Mr Antalffy, an entrepreneur, told CNN: “I remember one shoulder hurting, but other than that I didn’t feel any pain. I even took a selfie.”
His colleagues, fellow enthusiasts on a trip to the host city of the World Paragliding Championships, had contacted police when he failed to return to the hotel on February 23, the day of the accident.
He was initially convinced he had only suffered minor injuries but was admitted to hospital several days later where he was given painkillers and sent back to the hotel.
His wife Anita Dangel, who stayed at home in London, struggled to contact her husband on the phone from London for two days before finally reaching the hotel and learning of his accident.
She said: “He told me, ‘I’m really weak. I had an accident. I’m too weak to come home, please come help.
“That was a red light for me. He’s so independent. If he can do something on his own, he will.”
The mother-of-three flew to Brazil where local doctors suggested flying her husband to a larger hospital in Belo Horizonte.
But she was wary and opted instead for the six-hour ambulance ride.
She said: “When we got here and they did a head scan, the doctors told us it was a miracle. He would have died if we had tried to fly with so much pressure on his brain.”
It emerged that Mr Antalffy, a Hungarian national who is the founder of medical technology company Smart Respiratory Products, had cracked his skull and broken his scapula and multiple other bones in the accident.
He remains in hospital in Belo Horizonte and hopes to fly home at the end of the month, although admitted he has very few memories of the week after the accident.
Ms Dangel said: “There are things that change your life forever. This is definitely one of them. We will never be the same.”