I just spoke with a friend of the victim in San Juan, PR about this sad accident. I extend my sincere condolences and regrets to this young man's family and friends.
In an attempt to try to learn from this loss, the details that received to this point follow.
1. The accident occurred off Ocean Park, last Sunday, June 23, 2002.
2. The rider, an apparently healthy 23 year old man had been kiteboarding for about one year and was proficient on the water. He had been windsurfing for many years prior to that time.
3. It was reported to be a beautiful day with about 30 kiteboarders out with onshore winds around 12 to 15 kts. The area is reported to be free of rocks and other hard objects offshore.
4. The rider was out with a North kite of unknown size 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.
5. The rider was seen body dragging and in control at one point. 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 and took him to the hospital where he was pronounced as deceased.
7. The autopsy ruled that death occurred due to drowning. No evidence of impact trauma or obvious cause of drowning was noted.
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 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 is not known if he was wearing a helmet or impact/flotation vest. 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/
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 TYPE I PFDs will but many models have serious disadvantages in terms of bulk and constriction. In fact many TYPE I PFDs may be UNSUITABLE for kiteboarding given the potential to induce neck injury on fast impact with water. I will do more research on lower bulk approved PFDs. Wearing safety gear may help. Then again not wearing it will remove any question of it possibly doing any thing to preserve your health or even your life in a emergency situation.
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