Sitka lawmaker breaks two leg bones in ‘non-ideal’ paraglider landing

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D – Sitka, speaks during a House floor session in the Capitol in Juneau on March 16, 2020. Kreiss-Tomkins broke both bones of his right leg below the knee on Saturday. (Photo by Skip Gray/KTOO)

State Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins is recovering from a broken leg after he went paragliding with a fellow legislator in Anchorage over the weekend.

Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, broke both bones of his right leg below the knee on Saturday and underwent surgery later that afternoon. He was released from the hospital on Sunday.

He said he had gone paragliding with Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, at Flattop Mountain, taking advantage of the mild weather in the city.

“It was my first time flying there, needless to say,” Kreiss-Tomkins, 33, said. “And so I had basically taken a more conservative — and also longer — flight path, and so had much less elevation as I was approaching landing than would have been ideal. And so that resulted in kind of a non-ideal landing.”

The hard landing broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg. Kreiss-Tomkins said that he landed in snow not far from the parking lot, where EMS personnel were able to reach him without difficulty.

A man in red hanging from a yellow paraglider
Rep. Laddie Shaw paragliding in 2020. Says Kreiss-Tomkins of Shaw, “He’s lived quite a life. And we have a lot of shared interests. We’ve been friendly over the years, and he has been sort of a source of encouragement to pursue paragliding.” (Photo courtesy of Laddie Shaw)

Although Kreiss-Tomkins and Shaw are in opposing political parties, he said they have something in common: a love of adventure.

“He’s a Navy SEAL and he is a Vietnam vet,” said Kreiss-Tomkins. “And he’s lived quite a life. And we have a lot of shared interests. We’ve been friendly over the years, and he has been sort of a source of encouragement to pursue paragliding.”

Kreiss-Tomkins traveled over the winter break to California, where he became certified in paragliding.

He said he’ll take time to consider his future in the sport.

“I really enjoy being active and doing sort of adventurous outdoorsy things, but ultimately want to be sort of sober about cost-benefits,” he said. “If you’re on crutches for six weeks, you’re not outdoors being active. So I’ll have to evaluate the cost going forward. I’m not quite sure just yet.”

The injury and subsequent surgery kept Kreiss-Tomkins from participating in Tuesday’s House floor session. However, he appeared in committee hearings by phone on Wednesday afternoon.

He said that he planned to be back in Juneau on Wednesday night. He expects to spend the next six weeks or so moving around the capitol on crutches.

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