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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“New hobby,” she captioned the photo of her paragliding.

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

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

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

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

Ms. O’Leary’s social media is full of photos from her travel and paragliding adventures around the world.

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

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

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

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

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that the Ministry was aware of the death of one of their citizens during a paragliding accident in France and offered help to the family.

Her body is currently being repatriated home.

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

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

Ms. O’Leary is a graduate of the University of Otago and previously worked at Hauora Tairāwhiti District Health.

Originally from Macraes Flat, three hours east of Queenstown, she had lived in Queenstown for the past 12 months and was about to begin a fourth season as a doctor at the nearby Coronet Peak ski area.

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

“Losing someone in these circumstances is very tragic and she was a truly talented and valuable member of the medical team.

“Our condolences go out to the family – it’s tragic.”

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

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

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

“Devastating news – great doctor – thoughts are with your family,” one woman wrote online.

A former colleague added: ‘It was so sad to hear the news, you were a wonderful doctor who we have all enjoyed working with. Thoughts are with your family and friends.’

A third person wrote: ‘I was shocked when I heard it. Will miss you.’

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

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

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

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