Fort Funston shooting victim succumbs to wounds

The ashes of Dan Murphy, a hang-gliding pilot gunned down in a Fort Funston parking lot, will return to the sky.

The 48-year-old San Francisco master hang glider died Saturday, five days after a gunman shot him in a seemingly random attack before turning the gun on himself.

Murphy’s ashes will be scattered by a hang glider over Fort Funston in the next week or so, said Fort Funston Fellow Feathers Club member and friend Gordon Pollack.

“It’s what he wanted,” Pollack said.

The former commercial pilot loved being in the air, friends said. Murphy was rated as a master pilot, meaning he was in the most skilled category of hang gliders.

Friends are reeling from the shooting that left another glider, Kurt Schmitz, injured but expected to survive following surgery.

Will Smith, the 59-year-old shooter, had been wandering around the parking lot at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for hours when Murphy arrived around 7 p.m. on his motorcycle, officials said.

He shot Murphy in the head before shooting Schmitz in the back, according to police.

Smith, who lived in The City, unsuccessfully fired at a third hang glider before shooting himself.

Fellow hang glider and Murphy friend Eves Tall Chief said the shooting happened in a place where people go to find serenity and escape the world.

“You would never think he would get shot,” another friend, Rick Dumiak, said. “This is total insanity.”

Dumiak said his friend was a free spirit and a natural at everything he tried: scuba diving, motorcycle riding, flying planes and fixing BMW motorcycles.

Video clips on the Internet show Murphy guiding his hang glider down into a wheelbarrow where he touched his feet — a second before a friend pushed the winged cargo over the cliff at Fort Funston, propelling him into the air over the Pacific Ocean.

Murphy was perhaps best known for a mishap 20 years ago, during a Telluride, Colo., competition in which his glider nearly disintegrated at 1,500 feet. He escaped virtually unharmed.

“He was like Houdini,” Eves Tall Chief said. “He knew the treasure of being alive.”

mcarroll@examiner.com

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