Beginner death in France #kiting #danger

If you’r a newbie and fresh kiter (like me) – then this is not nice reading, but (if you ask me) – importante reading.

Bjørn @heidenstrom on Twitter (My source; Kite Pal; Ola Kristensen )


“The moderator can lock the thread or ask me to remove it , if it doesn’t fit here, but i think it s a good thing to read so people can see what can goes wrong and may be one day, might save their life.
I post it for educationnal purpose and not a morbide behaviour.
I hope u will have the patience to read , it s quite long but for once, u can have a first point of view of what happened, what went wrong instead of speculative hypothesis like we usually have when accident happens.


for 30 years , i m teaching my passion for watersports, this passion was shared by René as well, sea, wind, navigation ,windsurfing, sailing, flying, he made me dream with his navigation tales in the bahamas, but unfortunatly he went to some others paradises.

i thought i made everything i could so he could stay among us, but i failed.

my thoughts go towards his wife, children,family and friends.

Me, Eric Pelaprat, i took in charge  a group of 4 students at “Fil d’air” school at Mèze on “etang de Thau” (etang: closed water area, not a lake), level “waterstart, first ride”, composed of René (76kg), Anne-cécile (65kg), benjamin (65kg) Fabrice (75kg).

the forecast was a N-W ,5 to 6 wind strenght, all over the area.

i planned 2 planning for the day, a short one for the morning so i could identify the individual needs/problems of each student and precise the objective of each for the afternoon.

beside Fabrice ,who i took in charge, the previous days, i didnt know exactly the abilites of the others but, by what they’ve said sooner, i had René, few monthes ago, in a partial day with insufficient wind but i didn t remember his level exactly. he said he was riding a big TT and a 15m² kite.

11h: starting zone, NW offshore wind, flat water, 4km of downwind ride
super mario, our boat was resting in 50cm of water on a sand band (europa 700 open, 100hp motor), i launched the kites one by one, personnaly as:
-9m² RRd passion with a Bic surf for anne-cécile
-9.5m² best kahoona with a 160/44 for benjamin
-11 RRD massion and a Bic surf for fabrice
-11m² RRD passion with a 140/45 trax for rené

the students went in the water with their boards and a leash, through the radio in the helmets , i provided the advices to each of them
i noticed that anne-cécile had some troubles to put on the board because she had some pain to handle the kite with one hand without looking at her kite.
benjamin had some trouble to manage the power of his kite and his board went sliding a lot over the water.fabrice didn’t t have much troubles and start riding.

rené focused to straighten his legs and bend his arms, powering up the kite ( windsurfing behaviour) and sent the kite too much, too much power, sliding off the water or going over the board, on one of his over-board, he QRed by mistake, i re-engaged the QR with him in the water and he went again, trying to kite, i kept cooling him down all the way , through the radio because he always send the kite too much et never bend his legs.

he fell many times until i made a break at 13h

during the lunch, i made a debriefing for each students and i insisted on bending the legs and put the shoulders towards so they could climb on the board with minimal force, we made simulations many times on sand and on the boat with rené. i decided to change the boards for benjamin ( a 160/46 TT, larger and more tolerant) and rené ( a big surf, way easier than the 145 Trax)

around 14h40, i started the second part, same starting zone, same forecast, they kept their kites, everyone pumped up their kite on the board while i unwinded the lines, i checked the kites and lines, launched and tuned the trim ( max power on the 9m² and 5cm trim on the 11m²) benjamin, anne-cécile, rené and fabrice will be launched, i gave the launch orderbefore i launch fabrice (the last one to go)

rené crashed his kite and the LE deflated, i told him i wil come to pump it again after i launched fabrice and i would make the boat ready to go.5mn later, i pump his kite ( the inflating valve poped , i guess), the front and rear lines were symetricaly crossed, he noticed it and i told him , it wasn t a problem, we can fly like that, i relaunch the kite. at the zenith, he check the bar and ilnes then he put the board on.

meanwhile, around 15h20, same problem happened to anne-cécile, i rode towards her, 300m downwind of rené, i started the pumping when i heard a scream, upwind of me.

i look back and i saw rené’s kite looping with a front bridle over the kite and stuck at the end of a strut, the kite was looping fast at around 3second per loop, hitting very lightly the water, i screamed through the radio to QR and powered up the boat towards him, leaving anne-cécile in the water with her deflated kite.

in less than 1Mn , i was at his side, at each rotation his head goes underwater, i seem him trying to stay overwater, i decide to neutralize the kite with the boat as i saw taht he couldn t QR.

this move ( neutralize with a boat) is not easy, u have to put the boat over the lines, betwwen the kiter and the kite, then, once on the lines, going towards the kite to crash it, catch it and deflate it. i did this move 7 or 8 times in 14years of kitesurf teaching and it s not easy to go by the kiter with the boat and the propellor..

the kite was looping high , rené was moving by “jolt,cough”i had to come fast and clean, i went over the lines , came too fast on the kite, i tried to slow down with the rear gear and the engine went off, i jumped on the LE but missed it by 50cm, the kite took some wind again, rené was stuck at the rear of the boat, the lines under the boat pushing him in.

i ran at the rear, i catched him, he was on panic and drank some water, i told him to QR, he said he couldn t , and his head went underwater, the kite went up in the air and towed the boat. With this charge , it was looping faster without touching the water, i was sitting on the rear deck, i put my fingers in his helmet and i managed to put the head off the water, with the other hand, i tried to find the QR, the pressure on the bar stuck on the boat kept the kite powered, blocking the QR by pushing it, i hit the kite leash on the right side and i started, with the elbow,to lift up the boat motor with the electric trim so i could remove the lines from the weight of the boat.

suddenly , we were free, i got thrown in the water ( the boat was drifing away), my right hand on the main QR, my left hand trying to keep his head out of the water, he was moving randomly, gasping for air, i had to catch him firmly so i could QR, the QR was opened but the chicken loop was still in place in the hook, the traction was strong especially with 2 man, the kite was looping fast, at each rotation, rené or me had our heads underwater, i couldn’t understand what was stuck, everything was QRed and nothing was moving. i decided to pull a line so i could flag out the kite, i couldn’t pull more than 1m or 2 and there were many twists now, i saw it didn’t work and i had to use both hands , leaving rené on his own.

at this moment the chicken loop went off, but my joy was short, the traction started harder, the kite leash was stuck in the twist and the kite was looping harder with two more meters of lines.
i didn’t understand where the leash was stuck and followed it with my hands , it was stuck in the harness hook , i had to remove it at all cost. at that moment, the kite ejected me out of the water at 5m of rené, freeing us.

i estimate we got dragged for 1mn or 2 at the end , the kite must have done 50 kiteloops in 3mn.

i turned back and i saw rené, face towards the water, without moving, i swam towards him, turned him around, put his surf under him (leash was still on his harness), and i started  a reanimation, after 2-3mn , he breathed again, he was still uncounscious, i checked his pulse , all clear, i couldn’t t put him on the side otherwise his mouth would be udnerwater, my radio was still around my neck and i called my students, told them to stay where they were and to yell at the boats around:

Fabrice was riding downwind, anne-cécile, still with her kite in the water , near me, benjamin crashed his kite at 300m, downwind of me, my boat was drifing at 100m downwind. anne-cécile was swimming towards me, she told me , she was a doctor, i swapped on Patrick’s frequency, one of the 3 teachers that had a group at 1km upwind, i heard him talking to his students, i called him and his studients but i understood fast that he was too far and my antenna was almost in
the water, we dont communicate much, between teachers with those radios, geared towards students. we use onboard VHF radio or our phones. i gave rené to anne-cecile and i tried to catch up my boat, now at 200m, using anne-cecile’surf, i realized that it gonna take a lot of time, i tried to get patrick over the radio on a regular basis, i gasped for air and i rowed as fast as i could, i asked to benjamin to head towards the boat which was drifting a bit towards him and to catch it at the front , to slow down the drifing, but benjamin was stuck in his lines and couldn’t do anything, after 15Mn, i catched up benjamin, i sent desesperatly some messages over the radio towards patrick , his group and him were going towards rené and anne-cecile, i put the boards in the air, patrick heard that i was calling him but the messages were too cut (hashed?) to understand who and why, finally, he saw them on his path.

i saw patrick putting rené and anne-cecile on board and calling the rescues, i thought at that moment, that he was saved.
Patrick came towards me at 400m downwind, i went onboard and i saw that rené was not breathing and his heart stopped, when i left him, he was at least breathing, with fury, i run towards him and started a CPR, while we went to my boat fast, anne-cecile told me that she couldn t do anything in the water ( she was stuck in the lines as well), i was seeing the pain that will leave us marked for life.

i jumped on my boat, i left patrick,rené,anne-cecile, they were going to the harbor as fast as they could, the rescue were waiting them, they arrived there in 3mn.
i catched up fabrice,very far downwind et told him what happened, i picked up benjamin as well and went to look over the 4 students of patrick who were in the water, alone.
when i came back to the harbour, i saw the firemen trying to CPR rené, without luckom


read the rest via • View topic – beginner death in france, detailed by the teacher..

Bjørn Heidenstrøm

@heidenstrom on Twitter/Instagram