Big Gusts 2

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What happened?

By alsoares

My fellow kiters who witnessed the accident said that a gust hit him very hard and similarly to what happened in Fort Lauderdale yesterday. I wasn't there, although I wish I could have been there, I'd certainly have advised him not to go to the water, as I did before at other occasions.

Just to make things clearer, the weather conditions were totally inappropriate for kitesurfing. The kiters who dared to confront the bad weather hadn't been kitesurfing for a certain time, so they were eager to enjoy one day of strong wind. I thing this is the reason that may have blind their sense of danger to the point that they didn't notice any sort of cloud formation (cumulus nimbus, rather frequent here during the winter season) approaching the spot. I believe a cumulus nimbus was approaching them because another kiter who was driving his car nearby told me he had noticed a dangerous cloud formation like that, a few minutes before the accident.

A bad signal of an approaching and dangerous cloud is a fast drop in atmospheric pressure, usually followed by wind speed drop. This signal is the last warning of what is to come. A few minutes after that, the wind increases significantly and very fast, followed by intense rain. It seems exactly what happened while Alexandre was in the water. The other kiters were all leaving the water because the wind was getting lighter, I believe they haven't noticed the cloud. At this time Alexandre rushed to the water, could hardly sail 200 meters and when he was coming back to the shore the wind started to increase, at first slowly. When he was next to the shore, his kite fell down. He succeeded on relaunching his kite when the first gust came, dragging and lifting him. First, according to reports from the other kiters, he managed to land on the beach, but before he could do anything to get rid of his kite, he was violently pulled against a tree, breaking branches and flying directly into a fiberglass wall of a handicraft facility. His uncontrolled kite, now positioned at zenith, lifted him 10 to 15 meters high above the handicraft facility. Alexandre was possibly already unconscious. His kite lost power, and he dived to death, next to the opposite sidewalk of the street, where he hit his head against the asphalt.

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What can we learn?

  • Never underestimate bad weather.
  • Check your safety-release system more often.
  • Develop and keep your 'muscle memory' active. That is, train repeatedly and exhaustively how to activate your safety-release system until the point you'll be able to activate it by reflex, without thinking. If you can do it in two or three seconds, you can save your life.
  • Use a helmet and a impact vest.
  • Revise your equipment frequently, replacing worn ropes and lines.
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