Father looks for closure a year after paragliding tragedy took his son’s life


Nissim Thapa had dreamed of winning a gold medal in paragliding during the 9th National Games. It was a shared dream he had with his father Prakash who had sacrificed a lot for his son.

Prakash saw how hard Nissim worked and was confident that his son would win a gold medal in the event.

However, all of Prakash’s dreams and expectations were shattered when Nissim lost his life during the paragliding event. The incident occurred as he fell from around 50 metres, collapsing to the ground while auto-rotating to take off for the flight.

Nissim was the only child and his untimely death has brought unbearable pain to his loved ones. In a poignant recognition of his achievements, Nissim was posthumously awarded an honorary gold medal.

In the men’s football match, Nawayug Shrestha of Tribhuvan Army Club paid a moving tribute to Nissim. After scoring against Nepal Police Club, Shrestha, dedicated the goal to Nissim adding a heartfelt touch to honour the late athlete.

Nissim’s parents held onto the hope that an investigation into the incident would uncover the truth, providing them with the closure they sought. Unfortunately, their expectations were not met, and despite reaching out to various authorities, no significant action was taken.

Their pleas for an investigation were presented to the mayor of Pokhara, the chief minister of Gandaki Province, and the National Sports Council. Despite their efforts, the demand to probe the incident went unanswered. Similarly, they sought assistance from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the Ministry of Sports, and the Ministry of Tourism, but their appeals seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“No one listened to us,” says Prakash, a year on from his son’s death.

Unsafe protocols

File: Paragliding above Phewa Lake, Pokhara paragliding safety

Prakash believed poor preparation for the event during the 9th National Games played a major role in Nissim’s death. Despite this concern, the government showed reluctance to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident, adding to the family’s frustration and the quest for accountability.

“I often go to the incident site to find things. But I don’t find anything,” he says. “I can’t believe he’s no longer with us.”

According to Prakash, the incident occurred near the take-off site where a building was under construction.

“The sharp rods from this construction claimed Nissim’s life,” he says.

The construction was being carried out by the KC Group of Pokhara in an area that was previously used as the take-off point. The location had been shifted later due to the impending inauguration of the Pokhara International Airport.

Expressing his concerns, Prakash says that no country would organise a national game without proper study. He believes that if precautions had been taken, such as the absence of sharp rods in the take-off zone or their proper covering, Nissim’s life could have been spared.

“He tried to avoid the rods, but he wasn’t lucky,” says Prakash.

Looking for closure

Nissim Thapa

Nissim, who had participated in both national and international competitions, was concurrently pursuing a master’s degree in sociology. In the 8th National Games, he represented the Nepal Army and secured a silver medal in paragliding. Nissim also achieved success in the pre-world cup in Pokhara, clinching one of the titles.

Despite a nationwide prohibition on paragliding, the 9th National Games included the sport after obtaining permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.

Thapa has accused officials from Nepal Paragliding and Hang Gliding of engaging in illegal paragliding activities, raising questions about the safety and regulatory measures surrounding the sport.

“They have embezzled huge amounts of money. They probably have misused the money received for the preparation of the event,” says Thapa. “So, I have demanded an investigation.” 

According to Thapa, there is also a fault with the safety director of the 9th National Game. He argues that there were issues with the timing of the takeoff instructions and questions why there is no footage of the incident.

Expressing his grief and frustration, Prakash says, “My son has already passed away, but he has exposed how wrongly the sport is being managed. I wish for the sector to become safe, ensuring that no one loses their lives like Nissim.”

In memory of Nissim, Prakash has been actively involved in social work through a foundation named after his son. Additionally, he has shared stories that serve as tributes to Nissim, keeping his legacy alive.

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Amrit Subedi is a Pokhara-based correspondent for Onlinekhabar.

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