LAS VEGAS, NEVADA (KRQE) – In the Nevada desert, 30 miles south of Las Vegas, 11-year-old Arys Moorhead posed for his mom’s picture, making “rock on” symbols with his hands as he stood in front of the hang glider.
It was Friday afternoon, the end of the Farmington family’s spring break trip. Arys, a fifth grade student at Mesa Verde Elementary, was too young to ride the zip-line on Fremont Street the night before, and he wasn’t going to miss out this time. He wanted to go first on the hang glider.
He and his hang gliding instructor, 55-year-old John Harrison, were tethered from the glider to a tow truck that would pull them into the tandem flight. His mom, grandmother, and brothers sat in the back of the truck and watched.
“At a certain distance or height the tether is supposed to come apart and they free glide,” his father Brik Moorhead said in a phone interview. “The tether didn’t come apart. The truck turned and pulled them straight down into the ground.”
Arys and his instructor died on impact. “Only people who have gone through it could imagine the hurt,” Brik Moorhead said. “I really can’t describe it … a boy you’ve spent 11 years with.”
The FAA is investigating why the tether wasn’t released. KLAS-TV reports Harrison was an experienced instructor.
On Friday, an emotional police captain described the scene. “This is the first time that we’ve ever had to be summoned to an incident, as well as an accident, of this magnitude before,” said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Captain Peter Bofelli.
Neighbor Amanda McKelvey-Valdez says the reality of the news hasn’t sunk in. “I think the gravity of it will hit when the family comes home,” she said.
McKelvey-Valdez says Arys would go out of his way to make sure other kids felt included, including her daughter. “A lot of times, Trinity would kind of get picked on because she has hearing aids, so sometimes the kids wouldn’t really play with her,” she said. “Arys would always play with her, acknowledge her, and make her feel like she was part of the school.”
The Moorhead family spent the day visiting the crash site to lay flowers there and later, the mortuary.
His father tried to describe the waves of agony he’s felt.
“Remorse, shock, sadness, regret,” he said. “He had a lot of friends and a lot of people who loved him, and we’ll all miss him.”