Dunlap residents mourn the loss of a legend after death of hang glider pilot

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The death of a local hang glider pilot has left a void in the heart of Dunlap. Dan Fleming died on Sunday during his final flight in the hills-- he was 69-years-old. (KFSN)

The death of a local hang glider pilot has left a void in the heart of Dunlap. Dan Fleming died on Sunday during his final flight in the hills-- he was 69-years-old.

Fleming wasn't born with wings but he knew how to fly. He was a hang glider pilot who paved the way for people like Ryan Smith of the Central California Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.

"Every Sunday morning, I'd get the call, 'you going flying? Let's go fly!' that's all Dan wanted to do."

Fleming soared above Dunlap for the last time Sunday when he launched from a ridge high above the landing zone he owned and died during the flight.

"If you're in lift, don't ever leave lift. Well, he left lift and that was the first indication that something went wrong," said Smith.

Greg Pierson was on the ground when Fleming's body hit the side of a mountain. He doesn't think the impact killed him-- he believes Fleming had a heart attack or a stroke in the air.

"It was obvious, nobody was flying the glider. It looked like it was just wallowing around in the air."

The coroner's office has yet to confirm the cause of death, but one thing is clear-- a legend died that day.

A man who pioneered the sport-- Fleming was among the first to take flight from Highway 180 in the early 80's. He helped put Dunlap on the map, making it a destination for hang gliders and paragliders around the world and he was the only instructor in the Fresno area.

"He kept the sport alive and well in the Central Valley," said Smith.

Fleming dedicated 40 years of his life to keeping the sport alive and his friends said this is how he would have wanted to go.

"God, I hope I go out like that. Doing something you enjoy. The way you want to do it," said Pierson.

For now, the Dunlap Sky Park is closed, but soon, people will fly again to remember Fleming and the legacy he left behind.

That closure is just temporary and the landing zone Fleming owned will stay in the family. It's expected to re-open next month.
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