It was a typical Rio Linda Sunday, just like a thousand other late autumn Rio Linda Sundays. Quiet. Slow. Peaceful. Lazy.

Then Santa flew into into the powerlines at 7th and M Streets in front of RCI Plumbing.

By now you’ve heard the story; Local entrepreneur and currently grounded pilot Chris Ellis put on a Santa suit, climbed into his paraglider, and hit the skies to deliver some Christmas cheer in the way of dropping candy canes to the children of Rio Linda and Elverta.


He landed at the Rio Linda Library (formerly the Rio Linda Elementary School) and handed out candy canes to the children assembled there. The take-off didn’t go as smoothly as the landing, and Santa hooked his left rear wheel on the high voltage power lines running down M Street.

A loud boom, a flash, some sparks and Santa was stuck, hanging mostly upside-down over 20 feet in the air.

Rio Linda Messenger photojournalist Mike Hawthorne was there moments after it had happened, and covered the rescue live on the Rio Linda Messenger Facebook page from beginning to end.

You can view the livestream here:

Metro Fire, Sacramento Fire and CHP all responded to the scene. SMUD was called to cut the power, and an hour later, with the help of some hook and ladder trucks and some SMUD bucket lifts, Santa was down.

Luckily, Mr. Ellis hurt his leg and nothing else. No broken bones, no electrocution, and very, very lucky.

In the following days, Rio Linda Messenger has fielded calls and emails from Good Morning America, CNN and the A&E Television show “Live Rescue”. We have done interviews with Fox40 News, CBS13 News, CBS4 Miami, 6ABC Philadelphia and provided information to Reuters, the Associated Press, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Good Morning Australia, and The Sun of London UK. On Twitter, the story has been covered and reported by Berliner Kurier in Germany, Reuters India, the London Daily Mail, and well, pretty much everyone.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said “Preliminary reports say the powered parachute lost power on takeoff near a school in Rio Linda, Calif., and then hit and became suspended in power lines on Sunday. The pilot was rescued, and the FAA and NTSB are investigating.”

According to Santa (and Chris Ellis) Christmas will be unaffected.