44. Incident #6 02 4 "Rider Fatality in Germany" Location: Zingst, Germany
Date: June 7, 2002 Participant account included: No Number of independent accounts: 3
Silke Gorldt, a pro rider was competing in the Kitesurf-Event FD-Tour in the Baltic Sea. Winds were slightly onshore 17 to 27 kts. Silke was flying an 8 to 9 m four line inflatable kite. She had come in within about 25 m (85 ft.), of shore and was tacking to reverse her direction of travel. Silke's kite became tangled with a male competitor's kite who was also riding in the area. The other rider unhooked in an attempt to have better kite control. Silke did not unhook at this time. The two kites did not separate but apparently powered up in a gust or through displacement of the kites into the power zone. The overwhelming force ripped the control bar out of the male riders hands. The released kite control bar slide up along Silke's lines and caught leaving the second kite anchored above her kite. The pair of kites began to spiral rapidly in the center of the power zone developing tremendous force. Silke was pulled horizontally across two wooden groins or erosion control structures and into a fence on the beach. She was observed to be trying to unhook in the first few seconds after she was being dragged horizontally. Her overall distance of travel was approximately 150 m (500 ft.). First aid was rendered immediately and she was transported to the hospital by emergency helicopter. She died on the way to the hospital. "
A post made ten years following Silke's sad accident follows:
RickI wrote:Rest in peace Silke. Your tragic accident is the main reason we have Quick Releases and functional kite leashes today. This should be common knowledge in the sport of kiting.
In the early days, we were often unable to simply unhook when the kite was fully powered up. We weren't strong enough, the forces could move a car at times much less lock a loop in place. It took several years for reliable quick releases to hit the market after her accident but the tragic occurrence galvanized the industry to create such devices. Some may recall that in the early days kite leashes were common, then were discarded as uncool and interferences with tricks.
After her accident concerted efforts were devoted to developing spinable kite leashes across the industry. The use of leashes was no longer viewed as unnecessary or an option but it took time for this to settle in. The emergence of wake style kiting a few years later in large measure spread the use of kite leashes throughout the sport. Folks got tired of chasing kites more than worrying about runaway kites, either way, it was a turning point for the sport.
We owe a lot to Silke in short for improved safety, reduced access threats and more. Runaway kites alone brought a lot of pressure on access at a number of launches back in the day. I can recall trying to unhook during a bad lofting and being unable to years before reliable QR came about. We still need to improve kiting technology but we have come a long way, thanks Silke.