Lofted and Thrown into a Cement Wall - A Kiteboarding Accident in Tropical Storm Faye.
This kiteboarding accident was plastered all over the news in August 2008. A 26 year old kiteboarder was lifted by a gust of wind and hurled into a cement wall while kiteboarding during Tropical Storm Faye.
The Tragic Event
Kevin Kearney, the kiteboarder involved, was caught off guard by an extremely strong gust of wind that lifted him into the air and threw him violently down the beach. He crashed into the sand, bounced back into the air, and sailed over a nearby street into the side of a building. He was treated by paramedics and rushed to a nearby hospital. He suffered spinal fractures, brain swelling, a broken rib, and a broken wrist, among other injuries Thankfully he survived and eventually made a full recovery.
Like all kiteboarding equipment, Kevin’s gear was was equipped with the standard chicken loop quick release and a safety leash. Unfortunately for him, he was not able to activate any of these systems and de-power the kite.
Some people have speculated that this event took place so quickly that he had no time to react - this is very possible as you will see when you watch the video yourself. The entire accident happened very quickly, and it is possible that the first impact with the sand knocked Kevin unconscious.
What Can We Learn from This Kiteboarding Accident?
This accident is very tragic, and in my eyes, very avoidable. According to news reports, the State of Florida had issued warnings for residents to stay indoors. Why was anyone out kiteboarding? Here are some of the lessons that I see from this kiteboarding accident:
- Be aware of the weather. A tropical storm is called that for a specific reason. One of the things associated with a tropical storm is highly unpredictable, gusty, and strong winds. Storm force winds fall between 34 and 63 knots! That’s too much when the wind is gusty and unpredictable!
- Know your limits and stay within them. I don’t know many people who can or should kiteboard in 34 - 63 knot winds - not even if they are clean and consistent. As soon as you get gusty and unpredictable 34-63 knot winds, absolutely no one should be out in them - no questions asked.
- Practice releasing your quick release until it is completely automatic. All accidents happen fast - what we need to do as kiteboarders is be able to automatically activate our safety release without thinking about it. As soon as we get into a dangerous situation we need to activate the safety and de-power the kite.
- Don’t be afraid to use your safety. One thing that can get you into trouble is wondering “Should I activate my safety?”. If you are asking this question, chances are the answer is YES! Make it your goal to actively avoid any situation where you have to ask this.
Overall, this is one accident that should never have happened. Remember to be proactive about your own safety - ride safe!