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Old 08-07-2004, 10:07 AM
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Default Severe Lofting Accident - Matheson Hammock

Originally posted on the FKA list on Nov 13, 2003

I just received the following detailed accident summary from Kent Marinkovic, close friend and colleague of Alex Caviglia. Kent interviewed several bystanders and kiteboarders at the accident scene in preparing this summary.


"On Tuesday, November 12, 2003 at approximately 3:30 pm, Alex Caviglia the President of Adventure Sports was injured in a serious kiteboarding accident. The incident occurred at Matheson Hammock Park in a suburb of Miami. Matheson Hammock is one of the most popular locations for kiteboarding in Miami. The conditions at the time of the incident were ranging between 21-34 MPH and gusty. The wind was from the NNE and directly onshore. The incident occurred within seconds after the launch of his kite. The launch area is confined and approximately 35 meters in length and 2 to-5 meters in width (from the water to the parking lot). Due to the onshore conditions and the narrow width of the launch site, Alex was limited to being only 4 to 5 feet from the shore (knee deep in water) prior to his launch. His kite was also either over the land or just 2-3 feet off the shoreline. An experienced kiteboarder assisted in the launching of Alex’s kite and had released the kite after Alex had signaled him to do so. The launch was clean and free from fouls or twists. Alex proceeded to raise the kite to approximately the 3:00 position (about 12 to18 feet above the water and very low). Just after the launch, the gusty conditions caused the kite to drift slightly back (down wind and over the shoreline), approximately 8 to 10 feet from its original position which was far forward and out of the power zone. The kite quickly and sharply accelerated, causing Alex to lurch forward, out of control. Given the extremely narrow span of the launch region, Alex had literally a fraction of a second before colliding with the shoreline. Two witnesses (both kitesurfers) indicated that Alex had neither the time, nor the opportunity to activate his safety release system and that his hands never left the bar.

Fortunately, two of the witnesses on the beach (one a kiter) were fire fighters and certified paramedics. The first assistance by one of the witnessing paramedics reached Alex within 15 seconds of the time of the accident. The quick acting paramedics were able to contact emergency services within seconds and directly request that the Trauma center launch a rescue helicopter immediately. Alex was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Trauma center in Miami where he remains.

Alex’s current condition is critical, but stable. He has suffered serious head injuries, but doctors have performed procedures that have gone as planned and without incident. He is reported to also have other serious, but less threatening injuries. These injuries are yet to be determined. Doctors at Jackson Memorial hospital have indicated that more information on the severity of Alex’s injuries will come during the next 48 hours. "

Kent related some encouraging news from the hospital to me. Alex has revived to a degree into what the doctors call a "light coma." That is even though he is still unconscious, he is responding to some verbal instructions. Alex still has some ground to recover but this is excellent news! Alex, our prayers and thoughts are with you.
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Old 11-15-2004, 07:23 PM
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Originally posted on kiteforum.com in Fall 2003:


I spoke with the EMT and kiteboarder today who responded to the recent tragic accident in Miami within seconds of its occurrance. This man responds to and provides first care in emergencies for a living. He expressed the following opinion:

He felt that a helmet would have significantly reduced the severity of the head injury in this accident.

I regret bringing this up again and while so many of us are still trying to cope with this sad accident. Still, if any good may come of this horrible experience it might be in the example provided to others to start wearing these simple safety devices and to adjust the way in which we approach the sport.

Please don't get hung up on helmets. Just select the best one that you can find for kiteboarding, wear it whenever you ride and forget about it. It is just a safety device, you put it on and forget about it. In that way it is very similar to the safety belts in your car. The real part of safety in driving (and kiteboarding) comes in preparation and when you are moving. A helmet won't protect you from all impacts and accidents but it might make an important difference if something bad goes down.

We are in a lull in the strong winds of the fall. I suspect that the stronger winds will return shortly. Remember:

1. Avoid onshore winds, they have been responsible for a dispproportionate quantity of accidents. If you are an advanced rider and have the option, walk offshore as far as you can go and do an assisted launch and landing at that point. A couple of hundred feet of downwind buffer zone may provide the critical time needed to try to sort things out before you hit the shoreline. This approach should be STANDARD in sheltered, shallow waters. Accept that by choosing to ride in onshore winds, your risk of injury goes up substantially. Even if you have to drive a distance, why not pick a far safer launch with side onshore or sideshore winds?

2. Select your kite size for the middle or lower end of the wind range particularly if gusty conditions are on. Ask what other people are flying and how they are doing with it while considering their relative weight. The smaller kites can be AMAZING in terms of ease of handling and jumping. Rigging big and overpowered in higher gusty winds is a poor risk and idea. If you don't have a small enough kite, GET ONE, your health and safety are worth it. If squalls are moving in by eye or in color radar, DON'T LAUNCH or if you are out, get in FAST, land and secure.

3. Carefully preflight your kite, lines, leaders and harness before launching. Two to three times in stronger winds isn't too many times.

4. Generally launch with your kite pointed away from shore after careful preflighting. Keep your kite low to the water and go offshore without delay. Do not bring your kite through the zenith while near hard objects. If conditions are excessively gusty with pronounced lulls, wait until conditions stabilize further or accept the substantially increased hazard of launching in such conditions, WELL AWAY FROM SHORE if possible.

5. Work on launching and landing UNHOOKED. This is the closest thing that we have to an automatic kite depowering system in these early days. There is nothing better than having your bar ripped out of your hands in an unexpected strong gust as opposed to the sinking feeling of being lofted or dragged at speed. I have tried all three as many others have as well. I vote for the first option (with gloves on!).

6. If you choose to launch and land hooked in and accept the higher risk, if ANYTHING threatens or your are otherwise ...

IN DOUBT-PUNCHOUT!!!

That is immediately depower your kite using your leash without hesistation. If you are using a reasonable downwind buffer zone and your kite leash is well tested and reliable no harm should ideally come to anything in this process.

7.IMPORTANT-WEAR REASONABLE SAFETY GEAR. That is a good well fitting, secured, padded, light, low drag and light weight, hard shelled helmet with good drainage AND an impact vest, gloves, booties if appropriate, etc. The majority of people FORGET they have this stuff on minutes after gearing up. If you slam in we are talking a sublime pleasure and relief at dodging injury or perhaps having it lessened.

MOST RIDERS in SE Florida anyway, don't currently wear helmets. So there is no shame in moving to reverse this long helld trend. The only shame that might come into play will be in the next sad accident in which a helmet might have done some good but didn't because one wasn't being worn.

There is a LOT more to this sport than might appear on the surface. The level of safety can be subtantially improved by using good judgment, some of the above points, the ideas described at the link below** along with other prudent practices. This sport is an incredible experience and can be just as safe or even safer than hang gliding, off pieste skiing or other so called "extreme sports." You just need to take the hazards seriously, properly prepare and follow reasonable safety practices. Guys didn't make it to the top of Mt. Everest on a lark or by "looking good", or to 400 ft. on a breath by playing at it without suitable care, it took preparation, carefully built experience, good practices and gear. There are hazards that will likely always be present in this sport but it should be possible to reduce the risks.

** http://www.kiteforum.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=2300704
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