PACIFICA, Calif. (KTVU) - The hang gliding community is mourning the loss of one of their own after an experienced pilot crashed into the ocean and died over the weekend. Friends say they will remember a good man who lived life to its fullest.
The air is where 44-year-old Christopher Carrillo found peace, his friends say. He was one with the wind and would go hang gliding for hours.
That all came to an end Sunday when a witness called 911 to say they'd seen a hang glider in distress, forced to land in the ocean near Devil's Slide at about 4 p.m. Authorities managed to find him by 5 p.m., but it was too late.
Carrillo died after the hang glider he was piloting plunged into the ocean off the coast of Pacifica.
San Mateo County sheriff's officials said witnesses reported seeing the hang glider crash into the water.
The pilot unhooked himself from the glider but was unable to reach the shore because of the heavy surf and rugged coastal cliffs, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Detective Rosemerry Blankswade.
A helicopter rescue crew with the Coast Guard managed to locate Carrillo about an hour later not far from where the hang glider crashed. He was unconscious and not breathing, Blankswade said.
The victim was hoisted out of the water and taken to a nearby bluff, where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Carillo was pronounced dead at 5:29 p.m.
The San Mateo County Coroner's Office identified Carrillo on Monday. He was a San Francisco resident.
"Chris was an excellent pilot and a good guy and if you needed help, he was the first guy to help you," said fellow hang glider pilot Saul Richard.
The hang gliding community it a tight knit group and at least a half dozen members of the Fellow Feathers Hang Gliding Club talked about Carrillo's skill as a pilot.
They say the risk associated with their sport is dictated by just how far a pilot is willing to go.
"There's no way I could even get to where he died, over at Devil's Slide," said Richard. "No one flies over there because A) there's no beach to land on if something goes wrong. But B) it's like really hard to get there."
Carrillo had more than a decade of experience in the air.
His fellow hang gliders say as impressive a pilot as he was they will remember who he was on the ground; a generous friend who was always there for his fellow pilots.
"He had a bunch of videos for us beginner pilots to watch," said Richard." He was just one of those guys you looked up to, you know? I always wanted to be like him, I don't think that will change even still."
Sheriff's officials wrote on Twitter earlier Sunday that Carrillo had launched earlier in the day from Fort Funston in San Francisco and he "seemed to have caught a lot of wind, carrying his craft too far south."
Carrillo posted many videos of his hang glider trips on Instagram, including one two weeks ago.
The investigation into the circumstances surrounding why he had to land in the water is still underway.
Bay City News contributed to this report.