My sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of this man and to all riders Downunder in this sad time. The Australian Kitesurfing Association (AKSA), has provided information from their investigation of the tragic fatal kiteboarding accident in Tasmania that happened on December 1, 2003. A summary of that information follows:
The accident involved a kiteboarder of just under three years experience who had come into the sport from windsurfing and possessed a true love for the sport. The rider was in a hurry to launch and get some riding in after work in the area of Hobart along the southeast coast of Tasmania. Tasmania is an island south of the southeast corner of Australia.
The rider was to fly a 12 m 2003 Cabrinha kite in onshore & shifting 16-18 knots gusting to 24 to 25 knots. Although conditions were reportedly gustier than normal no squalls were present. It was near high tide and a close female friend helped him to launch his kite in the onshore winds while both were standing on land. The kite stalled and fell/flew downwind into low bushes next to some tall pine trees with the kiteâ€™s leading edge facing upward. The kite may have been launched a bit closer to 90 degrees off the wind and/or been hit by a pronounced lull causing the kite to stall and drift downwind. The rider was hooked in to his QR equipped chicken loop. The kiteboarder decided to try to do an unassisted relaunch from this position with the kite almost dead downwind in a â€œhotâ€ launching position WHILE still hooked in. He was hit by a strong gust of shifting wind immediately after he relaunched the kite. The rider was standing only about 10 m (33 ft.) away from rip rap boulders placed along the shoreline for erosion control. He was immediately lofted head first at speed into the rip rap boulders following his hooked in â€œhotâ€ launch propelled by the strong wind gust. He was immediately knocked unconscious and his kite continued to fly fast, powered up kite loops. Bystanders ran up and managed to depower the kite. The kiteboarder died from his head injuries at the accident scene. He was not wearing a helmet.
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Several important points come from this accident summary. The sad fact is that today, all too MANY riders might well make many of the same mistakes as this rider. This sport is often seems to be too easy, dangerously easy. When things donâ€™t go wrong very often despite routine careless practices, we often take ready kite control for granted and ignore the tremendous power of the kite in gusts and blinding speed at which things can go seriously wrong. If you visit many launches you will see poor practices quite commonly but things may be improving in this regard all be it slowly. Careless practices erode what factor of safety we may have against misfortune and can remove options for avoiding injury if misfortune strikes.
Some conclusions from this accident follow:
1. Never launch close to and upwind from hard objects.
Avoid downwind â€œhotâ€ launch and particularly under such poor conditions. â€œHotâ€ launches routinely result in the rider being dragged sometimes violently if his by a gust. There was no significant buffer distance between the rider and the boulders. He must have covered the distance in seconds and had no time whatsoever for any effective reaction once things were in motion. If you have the option, walk out into the water to launch to improve your buffer zone.
2. Avoid onshore winds.
Onshore winds are responsible for an excessive quantity of accidents and injuries to riders ranging from new to very experienced. Drive a bit further to a safer launch area with side shore or side onshore winds, it is worth your time.
3. Work on â€œunhookedâ€ launches and landings.
This rider might have avoided injury even if he made the dangerous choice to do a â€œhotâ€ launch conditions under such very poor conditions IF he had unhooked first.
4. Make sure that your kite is â€œbitingâ€ into the air or is ready to take off before instructing your assistant to release the kite.
If the kite is sluggish, wait for the wind to fill in and verify that you are no more than 90 degrees off the wind in moderate conditions and slightly more in light conditions.
5. If your kite doesnâ€™t appear to be properly launching IMMEDIATELY depower your kite.
All it takes is a gust with the kite downwind to loft and/or drag the kiter potentially resulting in injury even with impact against sand in some cases. If your kite doesnâ€™t do what you originally expected or WHEN IN DOUBT â€¦ PUNCH OUT, immediately! If things truly go wrong and you hesitate you may remove any â€œoutâ€ or escape from serious injury.
6. If you have a trained assistant, USE him to assist you.
If the unexpected happens, have your assist help you to setup and relaunch again without trying to do a hot downwind launch or to fix things on your own. Solo launches are generally more hazardous than proper assisted launches.
7. ALWAYS WEAR A COMFORTABLE HELMET APPROPRIATE FOR KITEBOARDING.
And still other points.
* Be careful out there.
* Safety starts with becoming aware of the possible hazards AND means of avoiding them.
* Significantly reducing the odds of serious injury is relatively easy to do.
* By contrast successfully dealing with an explosive dragging or lofting to a nearby impact is often infeasible to virtually impossible. The ONLY cure in such rapid accidents may be in the prevention.