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Inventive sailor Lars Bergstrom dies in plane crash

March 4, 1997

WAUCHULA, Fla. (AP) _ Lars Bergstrom, a leading innovator in worldwide sailing, was killed when his experimental plane crashed.

Bergstrom, 62, died Sunday in Hardee County, about two miles west of the Wauchula airport. It was his first time flying the plane.

A Sarasota resident and native of Sweden, Bergstrom was well known for his sailing designs and inventions. Eight years ago, he designed the 60-foot yacht that broke a 135-year-old record for the journey from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn. He and two others sailed the boat.

``He got outside the parameters,″ said longtime friend Charles Ball. ``He was not stifled by convention. He looked at everything with a new and innocent eye.″

Bergstrom invented the Windex, a wind indicator that’s mounted on the mast and looks like ``an arrow perched on a pencil,″ according to the editor of Sailing World magazine, John Burnham.

``Darn near every sailboat in the world has one of those,″ said yacht designer Bruce Kirby. ``It must have made them millions and millions of dollars. It’s the standard for any racing boat and many cruising boats.″

Bergstrom built the experimental aircraft with his partner, Sven Ridder. It was a ``Windex 1200C,″ a sail plane _ a glider with a motor, according to Hardee County Sheriff’s Capt. Edward Hendrix.

``The pilot had taken it up. He was trying to practice some stalling techniques. When it stalled, it didn’t start again,″ Hendrix said.

The plane dipped its nose, made a sharp right turn and spun to the ground, witnesses told the sheriff’s deputies.

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