Zach Orman, a medical student at the University of Arizona, had been attempting to land his paraglider shortly after noon during a flight at Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, about 45 miles southeast of Tucson in the Sonoran desert, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office in Santa Cruz County, Ariz.
Orman got caught in a strong whirlwind known as a dust devil, which unexpectedly threw him to the ground, causing multiple broken bones and severe head trauma, the Sheriff’s Office said. He died of his injuries several hours later at University Medical Center in Tucson.
Orman had been following in the footsteps of his parents, Dr. Rodger and Holly Orman, of Murphys, both alumni at the University of Arizona. He was studying there to become a physician like his father.
“He was an honor student from the beginning,” Rodger Orman said, adding that his son achieved honors in all rotations at medical school and recently earned the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society’s Gold Award for Humanism.
Rodger Orman is a longtime trustee for the Bret Harte Union High School District. He and his wife have donated to numerous charitable causes in Calaveras County.
Zach Orman graduated from Bret Harte in 2003 and earned his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience in 2007 from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
A lover of the outdoors, he enjoyed hiking and skiing, and more recently took up paragliding, becoming an assistant instructor with a Tucson-area organization.
He worked for three years for Yosemite Search and Rescue in Tuolumne Meadows and also spent time working ski patrol at Lake Tahoe.
Orman is survived by his parents; sister, Emily; and grandparents, Bernie and Betty Orman.
A service is scheduled Wednesday in Tucson.
Memorial contributions may be made to the University of Arizona Wilderness Society or Family Medicine Interest Group.