The father of an Australian scientist known as ‘the human swan’ who could lose her legs after a horror paramotor accident in Britain has just 24 hours to prove he’s her dad before his travel exemption is refused.
Sacha Dench, 43, was trying to circumnavigate Britain in a motorised steel parachute with Dan Burton, 54, when she plummeted from the sky after colliding with a member of her support crew on September 19.
Mr Burton died at the scene and Ms Dench was rushed to hospital in Aberdeen, northeast Scotland, with critical injuries.
Her father Steve Dench, who lives in Queensland, said on Sunday morning that the Australian Department of Home Affairs demanded to see her birth certificate to verify their relationship – which he does not have.
Sacha Dench (pictured), who is also known as ‘the human swan’ could lose her legs after an accident
Her father Steve Dench, who lives in Queensland, is now scrambling to get a travel exemption to see her
Australians are banned from leaving the country unless they plan to stay overseas long term or get a compassionate exemption.
Citizens leaving on compassionate grounds must prove travel is absolutely necessary with letters from doctors and relationship documentation – like birth or marriage certificates.
‘Home Affairs have asked for a copy of her birth certificate or documentary evidence of our relationship. I do not have this,’ he wrote in a Facebook group.
‘I was only notified at 11.26pm on Saturday night and have until midnight tonight to provide this.’
Mr Dench explained that he applied for a new birth certificate through Births, Deaths and Marriages, but the document may not arrive for weeks.
He also said the department would not speak with him on the phone until unless his exemption has been refused.
Scientist and paraglider Sacha Dench (pictured) plummeted from the sky on a 4,800km journey and record attempt around the UK
People flooded the comments section with messages of support and advice.
Some even urged him to arrive at the airport for his Tuesday flight and plead with authorities to let him board the plane.
‘Forget it, it doesn’t work. If you don’t receive exemption approval from the Department of Home Affairs, you cannot fly out,’ one woman wrote.
But another chimed in and said Ms Dench, who is related to the actress Dame Judi Dench and has connections with David Attenborough and Prince Charles, means her case is high profile and would get priority.
Some suggested he hire an immigration lawyer, while others slammed authorities for failing to let him see his daughter – even with certificates and letters from her surgeons.
Paramotorist Sacha Dench in flight as she passes the Kelpies near Falkirk as she arrives back into Scotland as part of a world record breaking challenge (pictured on September 3)
Sacha Dench pictured with celebrity supporter Joanna Lumley who has supported her circumnavigation attempt
‘I’m so sorry about your daughter… she’s one of a kind,’ one woman said.
‘I’d be sending them news articles and doctors statement. How many people can even use a paramotor? Is that not proof enough?’
Ms Dench’s condition is not life-threatening but it is life-changing, according to her father who explained she underwent an 18-hour surgery on Friday where doctors tried to save her legs.
The biologist gained her nickname after raising awareness of the plight of Bewick’s swans by flying from the Russian Arctic to the UK.
She also set a world record in 2016 by being the first woman to cross the Channel by paramotor.
Ms Dench and Mr Burton had almost finished their 4,800km around the UK as part of the Round Britain Climate Challenge when disaster struck.
They aimed to fly around the country in wind and green electricity-powered paramotors ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
Sacha Dench at the Kelpies near Falkirk as she arrives back into Scotland as part of the world record breaking challenge
Pictured: Paraglider pilot Dan Burton, 54, who was killed in a crash near Unapool in the Scottish Highlands this weekend
A final photo taken by Mr Burton and shared on his Facebook at around 8am on Saturday shows clouds rolling in over hills near the village of Tongue in the Scottish Highlands.
At around 4.45pm, emergency services raced to the scene of the accident near Lochinver but Mr Burton could not be saved.
Ms Dench, who was living in Bristol in southwest England, is the chief executive of Conservation Without Borders – which was running the expedition.
On Saturday night, the charity said: ‘In the last stages of the Round Britain Climate Challenge, a major incident occurred involving the lead and support paramotors.
‘We are very sorry to have to confirm that Dan Burton, the support paramotorist, has died.
‘Sacha Dench is seriously injured and is being treated in hospital.’
Sacha Dench i in a critical condition in hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her father hopes to fly from Queensland on Tuesday
It added that both were ‘highly experienced paramotorists’ and as a result of the accident the challenge has been halted.
Ms Dench is known for global expeditions with migratory species but has turned her focus to climate change after losing her family home in Sydney to bushfires last year.
Dame Judi and Sir Ranulph Fiennes have backed previous missions, including a flight over the Atlas mountains.
For her latest challenge, Ms Dench was flying a specially adapted machine which enabled her to take off and land anywhere to recharge
The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association said it would be undertaking a ‘formal investigation’ into the accident.
‘We cannot speculate on the causes of the incident. The investigation report will be published in due course,’ it said.
‘The BHPA can confirm that both pilots were BHPA members and they were qualified to fly powered paragliders.’
Police Scotland confirmed Mr Burton’s death in a collision involving two paramotors.