Craig Pirazzi, R.I.P.: Colo. Hang Glider Pilot Dies in Park Where He Made History

Craig Pirazzi lived his life on the edge — and over it.

As a hang-glider pilot, he helped capture some of the most spectacular views of the West imaginable — including shots that are included in a movie entitled Free Flyers that was made available on YouTube earlier this year. See it in its entirety below.

But while the footage Pirazzi captured lives on, he died this week in a tragic accident.

He was blown off a cliff in Utah's Canyonlands National Park, where he'd made hang-gliding history just a few years before.

Pirazzi called the Town of Paradox, Colorado, home.

However, he was a common sight in Telluride, where a video cheekily refers to him as a pilot in the "Telluride Air Force."

Here's the clip, from 2011.

In addition, Pirazzi frequently traveled to Utah in order to hang glide — and Canyonlands was a favorite destination.

Another YouTube video offers what its introduction describes as "onboard footage of what is believed to be the fist hang glider flight form the Anticline Overlook above Canyonlands National Park."

It, too, dates from 2011.

See the video below.

In 2014, Pirazzi returned to the park for an event known as the Canyonlands Huck Fest.

The following video features images captured by Pirazzi as well as a brief look at him on the ground; it's the source of the screen capture above.

What happened this week was infinitely more heartbreaking.

At about 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 25, according to the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, Pirazzi and two other pilots were attempting to hang glide at the park when he was "dragged off a cliff due to strong winds while attempting to take off."

He spiraled out of control for approximately 300 feet.

His companions subsequently rappelled down the cliff in an attempt to help him, but his injuries proved too great.

The cause of death was serious trauma to his head and body.

Afterward, Tony Ritter, who made the Free Flyers movie, posted this photo of Pirazzi about to take flight.

The caption accompanying the shot reads: "RIP Craig Pirazzi, (launching) a true, honorable man and great pilot. You will live forever in our FREE FLYERS movie. An honor to call him a friend."

Our condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Craig Pirazzi.

Here's the Free Flyers movie, which includes footage shot by and featuring Pirazzi.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

Latest Stories