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Old 05-04-2005, 11:17 AM
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RickI RickI is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Florida
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Default Rider Injured In Collision With Boat



Background

On Saturday, April 30, 2005 Matt was riding with several other area kiteboarders in Stiltsville, south of Key Biscayne, FL, USA. Most of the guys were using 12 m kites. He had rigged 18 m lines and felt comfortable with conditions and not overpowered in this flat water riding area. Matt has been kiteboarding for about five years and is quite experienced. At around 2 pm when events developed the wind was about 21 mph gusting to around 24 mph.


The wind at Fowey Rocks just to the south.
From: http://www.ikitesurf.com/

Photographers on boats were shooting the guys throwing down tricks. The kiteboarders were mainly riding in the Biscayne Channel that cuts through the flats of Stiltsville. There was a large quantity of other boats anchored over the flats area.



The view towards the north, across Stiltsville and the Biscayne Channel.
From: http://www.key-biscayne.com/

Stiltsville was named for a collection of homes on stilts that had been built out there since the early part of the last century.

A view to the east and the Biscayne Channel through Stiltsville, the riding ground.
From: http://www.key-biscayne.com/

Matt was coming in past the stern of the boat at a fairly high rate of speed with his kite relatively low. Unfortunately, there were three other boats in that direction which along with the anchor lines formed an enclosure of sorts about 200 ft. deep . There was no ready exit through this enclosure of boats. The wind was rising and Matt started to get a very bad feeling and raised his kite to the vertical in an effort to slow down. He managed to get it up to and just past the zenith before he collided with a boat. He struck his left leg on the gunnel and left elbow on the rail of an approximate 27 ft. center consol open fisherman boat. He was estimated to have slowed by raising his kite and edging before collision to about 15 mph and down from his original speed of approximately 20 to 25 mph. He was estimated to only have had seconds to evaluate and react to the situation. He did not attempt to depower his kite. His kite hit the water after the collision probably because he was able to fly it past the zenith to stall.

Matt surfaced after impact surprised to still be conscious but in intense pain. He was worried about his kite relaunching and immediately dropped his bar and detached everything. His friend in the boat, seeing that Matt was conscious and not apparently bleeding , dove in and swam hard to grab the leading edge to secure the kite to stop it from relaunching and causing further harm.

As it happened THREE orthopedic surgeons were on a nearby boat. They immediately swam over, managed to hand him into the boat in intense pain, rendered first aid and did an assessment of Matt’s condition. They had concluded that he had fractured his left femur and elbow. They immobilized him on the deck, rigged a traction apparatus for his leg, covered him with everything onboard, kite bags, whatever as chills had set in. They immediately upped anchor and took off for Mercy Hospital which has a dock on the bay (see the satellite photo above). There wasn’t time to allow two of the riders to bring in their kites, so these guys did a downwinder to Matheson Hammock a short distance to the west. They were later picked up by the crew of the boat.

The trip to the hospital was bumpy and promoted a lot of pain. Still, Matt made a definite impression of being made of tough stuff on his friends, not making much noise or really showing a lot of reaction to obvious very painful movement of the boat. Sometimes people can't stop yelling with the pain of such an injury. He was transferred in still more pain from the boat to hospital personal dockside and was conveyed to the ER. He was told at this time on Saturday afternoon, that they should be able to get a specialist on his case by Monday. Being broken up for a couple of days without treatment was not an appealing prospect. Fortunately, his family got into high gear and located a well regarded specialist at Broward General Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, FL about 40 miles north.

Matt was transferred to the new hospital on Sunday and operated on the same day. He received a titanium pin longitudinally up his femur to join it back together again. The prognosis for proper healing is good at this time and he hopes to be released from the hospital tomorrow. He is to have surgery on his elbow which has fractured into three pieces, in the coming week. Matt feels very fortunate not to have suffered more serious injury including skull injury as a result of the accident.

The timing of this accident is not great, if such a thing ever comes at a good time. He and his wife are expecting their first child to be born within the month and his has been completely renovating his house by himself in a rush to get things ready in time for the happy event. Still, his family and friends are helping Matt and his wife through this difficult time.


Analysis

I asked Matt what he learned out of this harsh encounter and what he might do differently next time? He said, “it just isn’t worth it,” always have a good downwind buffer. He became careless for a very short time and it cost him dearly. He had minimal reaction time to act once he was committed to riding into a one way enclosure created by the boats, on a rising wind and a low kite.

In hindsight, after he was committed to riding into the area of the boats, he might have:

1. IMMEDIATELY activated his kite depower. Arguably he may not had much time for this (awareness, analysis, correct reaction could take longer than a few seconds).

2. Do what he did, i.e. try to slow down by bringing the kite up to the zenith without initiating a jump by accident and edging, or

3. Trying to jump the boat. There were quite a few other boats downwind of the one he struck making this option even less desirable. Also, our experience in this sport with jumping boats we are about to collide with hasn’t been all that great historically.


Conclusions

1. Always maintain an adequate downwind buffer. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times and properly react in advance to changes. Avoid having a kite in the air upwind of hard objects. Doing so unhooked makes sense if you are near land. "Distance Is Your Friend In Kiteboarding."

2. PRACTICE mentally and physically releasing your kite to the leash. So many people have been injured by trying to fly out of the problem instead of activating their kite leash.

3. Wear reasonable safety gear for just in case.

4. Don't let a photo shoot cause you to drop your guard to where you have an accident. Lookout for yourself first throughout, plan the shoot layout with the photographer and stay aware/react early to try to avoid problems.


Discussion

Matt in the course of this accident only did what MANY other riders currently do. That is riding close to and upwind of hard objects. Sometimes no harm comes of this but not always.

Some riders have been killed, paralyzed and severely injured for lack of a safe buffer zone. Just because it happens at odd intervals doesn’t make the practice any less hazardous. No one controls the wind and the wind is what controls us, our speed, ability to slow down and whether or not we are lofted, etc.. You can see guys commonly standing around with kites overhead on beaches upwind of bystanders, trees, walls, buildings, etc.. This is a BAD idea and the fact that so many people do it doesn't make it anymore sensible or safe than if only one person was risking things in this way.

Matt assures me he will never place himself in that sort of situation again. Learning the hard and painful way takes a lot of the guesswork out of evaluating the need for safer riding practices. Still, for those reading this account, you have the opportunity of a free ride on Matt’s pain and hard experience to work to NOT repeat the same experience yourself.
Hint: Always maintain an adequate downwind buffer (100 ft. and more particularly in higher wind). Otherwise, you might just set yourself up for your own convincing misadventure. More ideas to try to avoid problems while kiteboarding appear HERE

Thanks for sharing your experience Matt to try to help others avoid repeating this painful process. Feel better fast, good luck with your new addition to the family and home. Hope to see you out on the ocean again soon!
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transcribed by:
Rick Iossi
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