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RickI 12-07-2006 09:44 AM

Near Fatal Lofting - Jupiter, FL, USA
The following is a summary of a dramatic and severe kiteboarding accident in higher winds and waves that happened on November 26, 2006 in Jupiter, FL, USA. The rider is very athletic, 215 lbs. and reportedly has been kiting for about one year. He was reportedly had not taken lessons and was self-taught. It was indicated that he purchased his 14 m North Rhino C kite off Ebay. Winds were observed to be around 25 kts. onshore with head high or larger surf. Intermittant squalls were regularly passing over the area bringing rain and gusty wind. The rider was reportedly lofted in a gust, striking numerous objects as he traveled about 600 ft. over land. He was not predicted to live as a result of his injuries. He miraculously started to rapidly recover and has been predicted to experience a full recovery in time by doctors.
The view to the north shortly before the rider launched his kite. One of the eyewitnesses is shown heading to the south from the area of the inlet jetty. Note scattered squalls in the background.
The rider's kite is shown in the lower right hand corner of the image. This photo may have been taken just after he launched his kite and within approximately 20 to 35 minutes of the accident. One of the eyewitnesses is shown riding off to the northeast. Another witness is among the surfers to the north or in the direction of the inlet.
Regular rains had been flowing over the area with squall lines that day as shown in the radar image above and some of the livecam images below.
Livecam images recorded at irregular intervals, 12:41, 1:13 and 1:30 pm to the northeast of the condo building. Note incoming threatening clouds and rain on the camera lens at intervals. It is likely that the clouds were also moving at a fairly high rate of speed, on the order of 25 kts.. Periods of sun would appear as recorded in some of the images.. CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LARGER PHOTOS.
Images taken at 1:56, 2:22 and 3:09 pm. The image from 1:56 pm may have been taken shortly after the rider launched his kite, shown in the lower right hand corner of the frame. The wind was onshore as are the head high or better waves. Getting offshore and beyond the inner breaker zone would not be an easy process even for more experienced kiters. The kiter was observed to drift downwind a distance in the longshore current with the kite at the vertical or zenith. This suggests the rider may have been overpowered by being rigged too big for the winds. At one point the rider was observed to have been pulled into the beach in the onshore gusty wind and waves. The observer ducked a wave while surfing and when he looked back the rider was no longer visible but noted the kite near the zenith by the condo. The accident may have happened between 2:15 and 3:30 pm per eyewitness reports.
Winds were estimated by several witnesses to have been around 25 kts from the ENE, with one witness describing gustier conditions when squalls/rains passed over. This anemometer is located just above the windward face of a midrise condo minimum building recorded winds ranging from 20 in lulls to 35 kts in gusts around the estimated time of the accident. It is not known if the anemometer is subject to significant measurement artifacts related to instrument placement. The news report stated the rider was hit by a 40 kt. gust. At least one other kiter was present in this area with a number of other riders on the water approximately two miles to the south. Other well experienced kiters had evaluated conditions that day and elected not to ride give the squalls and onshore strong gusty wind. The kite manufacturer upper recommended wind range for the 14 m Rhino appears to be 22 kts. The North Rhino kite was reportedly used with a control bar of other manufacture, a Slingshot Profire control bar with no kite leash. It was suggested but unconfirmed that the rider may not have been that aware of kite leash or emergency quick release issues.
The presumed launch area to the south of the dune overwalk. Note the approximate 6 ft. high vertical wave cut scarp along the dune face. The accident happened around high tide and as such waves were washing up close to this vertical exposure. In effect the rider had no downwind buffer whatsoever. This area is approximately 650 to 850 ft. to the south of what may have been the nearest manned lifeguard stand.
A view to the south over the launch area, condo and related features.
Many photographs from the EVS livecam shown in the image above were utilized in this summary.
The estimated path of the lofting is shown above. The rider presumably launched somewhere within the red shaded area. Significant beach erosion has occurred since this satellite photo was taken. At high tide the water level is close to the edge of the vegetation.

Accounts differ as to where the rider was around the time of the lofting. One account stated that the kiter was lofted from the water while riding while another holds that the rider was standing on the shore. He may have been dragged into shore by onshore wind gusts and waves in overpowered conditions. The observer in this later account stated he looked and saw the rider being lofted skyward with his hands on the bar until he was lost to sight behind the trees on the dune. Another account noted the rider being dragged shoreward and when the observer was able to look again after ducking a wave, the rider was of sight on the far or western side of the trees. The initial lofting distance from a. to b. is approximately 190 ft. One account stated that the riders kite was visible on the western side of the dune near the zenith. If accurate, this implies that the kiter may landed conscious and possibly with limited kite control following the initial lofting.
The kiter was pulled through this aluminum gate breaking off several components in the process (point b.). This may have happened with a gust, loss of kite control or other factors. The rider was then lofted and/or dragged approximately 150 ft. to point c. In the area of point c. he hit the rear corner of a parked car and subsequently broke/knocked over a roughly 10 ft. tall parking lot light standard. By one observer account it is possible that the rider may have halted momentarily in front of this fence prior to being pulled into it. No evidence of his attempting to pull his quick release to release his kite was noted in this evaluation.
The rider was then lofted/dragged to the WNW changing direction from his previous path to the WSW. He knocked over the short aluminum fence shown and may have hit the short concrete bollards as he moved to the north of the guard house at the entrance to the condominium as observed by the guard. It is possible that he may have been knocked unconscious during travel between points b. and c.
The kiter was then lofted to the WNW off the condominium property. Another pair of witnesses were driving eastbound to go surfing when they saw the riders kite appear about 30 to 40 ft. above the road. They noted the kite to be oscillating back and forth as the rider may have been temporarily restrained by one of the objects near point c. The kiter soon followed at about 10 to 15 ft. above the road. By the rider's body attitude the observers concluded that the rider was not conscious at this point. He ended up at the side of the road against the edge of the sidewalk approximately 260 ft. from point c. His overall distance of travel while on land may have been 600 ft. and more if he was lofted/dragged from the water as held by one account. His kite hit trees of the north side of the road. The kite was later recovered from the tree. The quick release had not been activated and the trim strap was noted to be pulled in halfway despite the reported overpowered conditions.

The two witnesses stopped, left the car and ran up to the kiter. He had impacted the edge of the sidewalk bordering the northside of the roadway near point d. . The witnesses released the kite load from the rider by detaching the chickenloop. One of the witnesses applied direct pressure to a neck laceration in an effort to control the bleeding. The rider wasn't able to breath properly as his waist harness had been forced high up his body. One of the witnesses cut the harness away. He was wearing a full wetsuit but no impact vest or helmet. They also held the rider's head to minimize movement to try to avoid aggravating possible spinal injury. The actions of these observers/first responders may have made an important difference. The rider was unconscious but regained consciousness within about 5 to 10 minutes. A group of about ten bystanders were said to be watching throughout this process. The lifeguards arrrived shortly followed by EMTs. A med evac helicopter landed to rush him to the hospital.

The rider reportedly suffered a brain concussion, hemorrhage, amnesia for most events that day, knee cap, facial, hand and other bone fractures and a bruised lung. The news report stated the rider was given "last rites," on the day of the accident the prognosis was that grim. He amazingly experienced a dramatic, rapid recovery to where he was conscious, speaking after a few days. Thankfully he is expected to have a full recovery.

RickI 12-07-2006 09:45 AM

Some points for emphasis come to mind. These things have been ignored or discounted by some kiters of all ages at times over the years. Some have been lost, others severely injured, while others suffered minor injury or perhaps none at all. Life and kiting are numbers games. Consistently approaching both on an informed prudent basis should result in more enjoyment and fewer problems along the way.

1. Avoid onshore winds particularly with strong gusts and large surf.
A disproportionate quantity of kiting accidents are associated with onshore winds. Newer riders should strictly avoid such conditions.

2. Do proper weather planning (reviewing forecasts, warnings, realtime winds, radar, etc..) and monitoring. This should be second nature for ALL kiters. We crave wind, why would we choose to ignore what brings good winds as well as the bad kind that can trash us and our gear? Squalls often bring excessively gusty winds and have been been responsible for many serious injuries and deaths worldwide among kiters. Kiteboarders should avoid squalls. Many activities demand proper weather planning and monitoring, kiting is no different.

3. Select a kite size appropriate for the lower to mid range of actual wind conditions. DO NOT go out rigged with too large a kite, ESPECIALLY if you are a new kiter. Combining this with onshore, excessively gusty winds, big waves and lack of extensive experience the odds of getting well offshore to ride become quite remote and the odds of an accident or incident go way up.

4. Physically and mentally rehearse activating your kite's quick release. Kiters should understand how their quick release or emergency kite depowering mechanism work. They should properly maintain it for effective performance and should regularly activate it with a reasonable downwind buffer to verify function and to become used to activating it without excessive delay in emergencies. Failure to do this simple step is akin to driving a high performance car and having no proper idea how to apply the brakes.

5. Always use a good, serviceable kite leash on kites. By not using a kite leash with a C kite, the rider either has to hang on to the kite like grim death and hope things work out. Or, to release the kite and send it flying off downwind out of control perhaps to damage the kite or harm bystanders. This may have explained the kiters reluctance to depower the kite in this accident. We often have bare seconds to react, chaining yourself to something that can fling you hundreds of feet with no ready means of killing the power short of releasing and perhaps trashing the kite is ill advised in the extreme.

6. Maintain an adequate downwind buffer. Less than 10 ft. horizontally to a 6 ft. vertical sand cliff in strong onshore gusty winds allows NO room for error whatsoever. You will be slammed into the cliff and/or lofted over it in no time. Try to maintain a 100 ft. clear downwind buffer and more if feasible.

7. Take adequate, high quality professional kiteboarding instruction. Steering an airplane is easy, almost anyone can do it. Thing thing that will keep you alive will not be your ability to steer the plane but your knowledge and experience with procedures, landing, taking off, weather, IFR rules, etc.. Kiting can be like that, it can be SO easy to learn to steer or operate the kite. Knowledge about what makes a good launch area, emergency depowering, weather planning, kite system maintenance, etc. is vital and can make all the difference. Good instruction is an excellent use of time and money.

8. Wear a good helmet and impact vest for kiting whenever you ride. Accidents will happen despite the best planning and preparation. Absent such preparation the odds go sustantially higher of misadventure. Safety gear can make a critical difference in whether injury happens at all or in the degree of severity along with the term of recovery. A helmet may not save your life in some impacts but not using one assures that your scalp and fairly thin skull will bear the full burden of impact, piercing and abrasion.

RickI 12-07-2006 01:11 PM

This rider was incredibly fortunate to survive and hopefully fully recover after such a dramatic lofting. Traveling perhaps in excess of 600 ft. through impacts against multiple hard objects while narrowly missing even harder fixed objects is miraculous. Flying a foot to the side at anyone of a number of impacts could have potentially been fatal. Riders have been killed striking far few obstacles and traveling over much shorter distances. It is a testament to his excellent health, youth and remarkable good fortune to recover at such dazzling speed.

Kiting is all about fun. Like so much else in life you need to train, learn the ropes and practice good techniques to reap the enjoyment while attempting to reduce the odds of misadventure. Many activities can result in grievous injury, driving, flying, diving, skiing, etc.. We reduce the odds of such negative consequences by approaching these activities prudently with proper training, preparation, suitable gear and judgment.

If despite all preparation you are lofted, immediately emergency depower your kite. You may have only one chance to do this. In reality kiters often have more than one opportunity to activate their emergency depower. Most often they never even try due to shock and lack of time and perhaps familarity with their gear. Rehearse emergency depowering procedures frequently.

The availability and low cost of used gear can be both a good and a bad thing. People can readily buy used gear from Internet sites but may lack any appreciation for the hazards, procedures, safety gear and other essential information that ideally would be conveyed at a kiteboarding store. They may further be self-deceived that adequate, quality professional lessons are unnecessary. It's just a big kite, right? I can figure it out and so it goes, not good. Kiting is a lot more demanding in terms of knowledge, skills and judgement than it may outwardly appear. Online used kite gear vendors would do well to attempt to inform clients of some of the realities of the sport and necessity of proper professional training.

kitehigh911 12-09-2006 12:56 AM

thanks rick for this report
Will Caldwell

RickI 12-12-2006 07:29 AM

This just in off Kiteforum:


Originally Posted by deltawake
Even though i live in SoCal my grandparents live in the building pictured so I ride there quite a lot.
The two things that strike me are where he launched and how close he was to the building.
The launch there is sketchy at best and there are many better spots close by - it looks like a dumb move to launch there.
From experience i can tell you that the wind near those buildings becomes extremely unstable for up to a 100 or so yards off shore. I've had winds completely reverse their direction close to the three buildings. I've also felt pretty significant updrafts close to those buildings - it's no surprise he got lofted there. There is a reason kiters don't launch there.
The last thing that I think is totally uncool is the photo showing another kiter ripping right through the surfers. WTF! Where is the respect! Jupiter is a huge beach and the surfers all hang out close to the northern jetty.
I think it's time for all the kiters in Jupiter to wake up a bit and do a little self policing on the people who are kooking out there.
For the record I was amazed how cool and easy going the life guards have been to kiters in Jupiter ( compared to CA lifeguards) - I guess that will have all changed by the time I riide there in Feb.

Any local input on this? Initially, I wondered about possibly entrainment into the slip stream by this curved building. Then again based on the apparent wind direction suggested by his kite alignment in the livecam image I thought it might not have been that significant.

Being overpowered with a 14 m C kite at the zenith and being hit by gusts into the 30 kt. range along with ridge lift off the dune might be enough to explain the initial lofting. If he snagged temporarily against the dune face loading up his kite, perhaps more so.

robertovillate 12-12-2006 03:50 PM

WOW, a really awesome report and documentation (in typical RickI fashion)! Thanks for taking the time to do this. A friend of mine's son in Jupiter knows the victim of this kitemare and i'm hoping he might pipe in with his own account.

Since I began kitesurfing I've tried to follow all the kitemares and related threads to learn as much as possible about them, and I think it's kept me out of trouble, especially during my early kiting days.

I encourage all my students and all newbies to do the same. I really think you're doing a great service by sharing this information. I hope that others are willing to share their own personal experiences (even if it's a bit embarassing) so that others will learn to be safe out there.

cheers and safe kiting to all.

RickI 12-14-2006 08:53 PM

Thanks! Looking forward to the day when no one considers something like this to be a freak accident as opposed to a readily predictable and more importantly, AVOIDABLE one. All things come in time, this should too. We seem to making progress. The more folks that read this stuff over and think about, ideally the fewer repeats we will be in store for.

chili 12-15-2006 07:27 AM

Rick, thanks for the great report, always important. Waiting for an update on our kiting brothers condition and some positive news of his recovery. I think this is also important.

RickI 12-15-2006 08:56 AM

The news I received earlier in the week is positive indeed ...


Originally Posted by RickI

Originally Posted by brui
Godspeed :thumb:

How's he doing?

By reports, his recovery has been astonishing. The only medication he is said to be currently on is Tylenol. He says he would like to go kiteboarding again. He apparently sounds quite good on the phone.

I have felt for sometime that those of us who have survived particularly nasty accidents carry something of an obligation to pass our hard won constructive lessons on to others. After all, we're the lucky ones and plenty have not been so fortunate. Hopefully going forward this rider and other fortunates like him will share the knowledge of their hard won experience with others in time. Many have done so up to this point. The goal being to try to reduce the odds of others following in our tracks to harm in the future.

kitemom 04-09-2007 10:28 AM

I am sorry this has taken so long, but this has been quite a road for our family. I just wanted to follow up on all the talk about my sons accident. I am the mom of the kiteboarder that had this accident. I agree with all the talk about being smart when kiteboarding. My son had alot of things going against him that day. One of those things by itself would more than likely not have resulted in any type of accident but put them all together and it was a bad situation. The onshore wind, no beach, the gusts coming thru at that time etc. As far as pulling the emergency release, we have determined that when he was first being drug up the beach toward the condos there was so much pull on the kite, that even though he is a strong ahtletic kid he couldn't pull the release. We have also surmised based on the eyewitness accounts, that as soon as he hit the first set of pilings, he was knocked unconcious and then couldn't really help himself in any way.

There was talk of banning kiteboarding from the beach after this happened. I don't necessarily agree with that. I do think that no boarder should be allowed out there without a helmet though. I know that is really tough to regulate but I just think it should happen. If you had been through what we just went through you would agree with me.

I also highly recommend a wetsuit. Hopefully you will never need it but it certainly kept the skin on my sons body. The few places that it was completely shaved away from being drug on the pavement, so was his skin. It saved him from alot of pain in recovery.

I am grateful every day for all the friends and people who didn't even know my son that prayed for him. Without sounding like a preacher, I have no doubt that God answers prayers and did that day. However, this was an accident that happened as the result of a choice. Every one of us makes choices on a daily basis, it is how we were created. My son chose to go out that day and participate in what some people call an extreme sport. He chose to wear the equipment he wore, and to launch the kite and unfortunately for him and his family, he paid the price. His recovery has not been without alot of pain and struggle. He has worked extremely hard to get back in shape to play football this fall and to get his life back.

Just make sure that when you do launch that kite, you are aware of the potential dangers, regardless of how remote. Most people think it will never happen to them, but it could. Reduce the odds, be smart and kite safe.

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