Additional information from Puerto Rico has been included:
I just spoke with two friends of the victim in San Juan, PR about this sad accident. One of the parties was out riding that day and provided help with the victim when he was brought to shore.
I extend my sincere condolences and regrets to this young man's family and friends. All the men in the family are kiteboarders and this must be a very hard thing for them to deal with.
In an attempt to try to learn from this loss, the details that I have received to this point follow.
1. The accident occurred off Ocean Park, last Sunday, after 5 pm, June 23, 2002. This day is a holiday, San Jaun Baptista (sp). It is a day when people attempt to go into the water at least 12 times during before midnight. It is a very popular day for the beach and water activities.
2. The rider, an apparently healthy 23 year old man weighing about 155 lbs. had been kiteboarding for about one year and was proficient on the water. He could jump and do transitions. He had been windsurfing for many years prior to that time.
3. It was reported to be a beautiful day with about 15 kiteboarders and 30 windsurfers out with steady easterly, onshore winds around 12 to 15 kts. The area is reported to be free of rocks and other hard objects offshore with a water depth of about 10 ft.
4. The rider was out on a twintip board without a board leash, with a 12 m North kite with a modified leash system. It was stated that the leash was converted from a wrist attachment to a harness spreader bar attachment. The fixed leash attachment was reported to have been transferred from the back line to the chicken loop (front or leading edge), lines. It appears as though the modified leash system did not fully depower the kite as described below. I should receive wingspan and leash length measurements and will post that information when I have it.
5. The rider had been seen making jumps. At one point he was seen body dragging and in control. Within about 15 minutes later he was seen being dragged along with his kite relaunching, flying down into the water and subsequently relaunching. The kite would spiral in this fashion as the rider was dragged towards the beach. So even though the leash was activated, the kite was not fully depowered. The rider was stated not to be tangled in any of his lines but had let go of his bar.
6. Police on jet skies intercepted the rider. The rider was unconscious and being dragged by the kite. The officers were having trouble dealing with the kite and so they cut the lines. Another kiteboarder grabbed the powered up kite and deflated the leading edge. The victim showed no vital signs and the beach and did not respond to CPR. A nearby ambulance took the victim to the hospital where he was pronounced as deceased.
7. It has been stated that the autopsy ruled that death occurred due to drowning. Further confirmation of this may be given shortly. No evidence of impact trauma or obvious cause of drowning was reported from the autopsy or noted when the victim was brought to the beach. An apprent line burn was noted on one of the victims ankles. It is not known when this burn occurred, before, during or after the accident.
In summary, this kiteboarder died due to drowning apparently induced by unknown causes. It is not known if the improperly rigged kite leash contributed to his death or not. There was no evidence currently of impact that would have caused him to lose consciousness. It is not known if there was a preexisting medical condition that contributed to the drowning. It does not appear that there was sufficient wind power with that sized kite to drag a conscious rider under long enough to drown him under normal conditions. It has been estimated that the rider's accident occurred close to shore at perhaps around 300 ft. The victim was not wearing a helmet or impact/flotation vest. It is possible that this drowning occurred for reasons not directly related to kiteboarding. If further information is obtained that can shed some light on this sad accident it will be forwarded to the list.
Even though it is not known if the kite leash figured as a cause for this accident or not, it is still critical that all riders verify proper, reliable leash function. Please do the practical leash test and other appropriate evaluation of your system. The test is described at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kitesurf/ ... formation/
Kiteboarding is an extreme sport that isn't as easy as it looks. Essential safety gear can sometimes pose hazards to the rider. That is not an accpetable reason not to use properly designed and tested kite depowering leashes in my opinion.
It is also not known if an impact vest would have changed the outcome of this accident. Many impact vests will not necessarily float you face up automatically. Approved PFDs will but many models have serious disadvantages in terms of bulk and constriction. I will do more research on lower bulk approved PFDs.
Wearing safety gear may help. Then again not wearing safety gear will remove any chance of it doing any thing to preserve your health or even your life in a emergency situation.
> I heard from a naish designer that there is another kitesurfer death in
> puerto rico. anyone have any news ? Would a helmet, leash, quick release
> or other simple safety device have avoided it ?