... there was a kiteboarder lofted in a squall. He was flying a 23 m kite in light winds when he ignored an incoming squall, was lofted and teabagged across the beach and between two buildings. By one eyewitness account, he was lofted into a palm tree and dropped down to the pavement head first. The accident summary appears below. He entered into a coma for about five weeks and no additional information was learned, until recently.
About a year ago, someone ran into the girlfriend of the victim. She had visited her former boyfriend out of state where he is being cared for by his parents. He can no longer walk, suffering partial paralysis. Sadly, he had no memory of ever having known the woman or even having lived in Florida. That time in his life, all the memories have been lost. He was in hospital for about six months and suffered nervous system damage and loss of memory and mobility. Thankfully he survived and came out of the coma but with serious losses all the same.
It was stated that the man was a loner, tried to figure things out on his own, didn't readily consider well intended advice or suggestions to take kiteboarding lessons. Some other victims of serious kiteboarding accidents have had some of these traits as well.
Some people still largely ignore squalls or don't bother to learn about them.
A summary prepared three years ago appears below:
60. Incident # 9 02 7 "Squall Injures Rider, Again" Location: Pompano, FL, USA
Date:9/29/02 Participant account included: No Number of independent accounts: 3
A new kiteboarder was out with an approximate Naish 23 m four line inflatable kite. He was flying over one half mile south of a group of other kiteboarders to the north. Squalls were in the area but many of the riders were ignoring them. One rider had to be grabbed while onshore as he was being lofted as one more squall moved into shore. The single rider to the south had been out trying to get some of the increased wind from the squall as it moved closer to shore. He succeeded in getting more and to the point of being overpowered. He worked into shore and then was lofted several times in succession, being "teabagged" across the beach until he went out of sight behind a building. The riders to the north later learned that there had been a serious accident.
From various reports it was concluded that the rider was lofted up into a tree where he hit and then fell from a substantial height, hitting his head on impact with the pavement. The rider was taken to the hospital. He was not wearing a helmet, impact vest or QR. It is presumed that the rider attempted to unhook but could not. The rider entered into a coma and is rumored to have come out of it after several weeks. This is still being attempted to be confirmed.
1. Kiteboarders must avoid squalls at all costs.
2. Kiteboarders should always practice anti-lofting technique.
3. Always use minimum safety gear including a good helmet, impact vest, reliable quick release (QR) chicken loop attachment, a tested kite leash, hook knife(s), gloves and a whistle.
4. Rehearse dealing with emergency situations both mentally and physically to reduce reaction and response time. An early high priority should be to activate your tested quick release and kite leash.
5. Depower your kite sooner than later even if it is less convenient. Later, you may not have time.
6. Take adequate quality professional lessons to improve the odds of avoiding serious injury
7. Kiteboard with others. Talk about weather issues and how to deal with them. Some popular launches have even come up with a Squall Warning. The warning is something like several repetitions of three fast blasts on an airhorn and in some cases the hosting of a pair of square red flags as well. Riders should never be out with squalls nearby as they can strike too quickly for proper reaction. Until time and hard experience cement this conclusion in the kiteboarding community, a warning system is better than none at all. More about weather planning and kiteboarding appears at: http://www.kiteforum.com/phpbb/viewforum.php?f=131
Riders seem to routinely ignore squalls and the danger and violent power that can come with them. Accidents including particularly spectacular ones have occurred over the last couple of years but apparently the word is still not getting out. Kiteboarders love wind and particularly when wind is light much of the time as was the case in this accident, kiteboarders intentionally put themselves at risk of injury. Many riders are not aware of this hazard while still others don't take it seriously enough. People trying to learn on their own are only more vulnerable. The term "cannon fodder" comes to mind in describing riders that expose themselves to such conditions out of ignorance. Please talk about weather issues with your friends and at local launches. Weather planning and awareness are key aspects of safe kiteboarding and too many riders are not aware of this yet or do not take the risk seriously yet. With time, there should be enough serious injury stories out among riders to overcome this ignorance and indifference. Until then there will be more such avoidable accidents until a critical mass of accounts and stories are in circulation.