I just read this sad news about two fellow kiters got caught in a current and died.
My condolences to family and friends.
Here is a long read about what happened and the special circumstances:
To Tereza and Mark, in their loving memory.
First of all, my absolute respect for the memory of both, sending all possible strength to their relatives and friends in these tough moments.
Second, their death was not in vain, all kiters, as well as anyone who may be in a similar situation, can and should learn from what happened, it will help increasing survival chances in similar scenarios.
After a day gathering information about what happened and another day for reflection, I feel it is important to expose my conclusions in a public way.
Numerous adverse circumstances came together, leading to such tragic consequences.
Let's start by analyzing the most important one. The sea (and any large amount of water) does not deceive, that vast immensity must be uniform and where we observe something strange, we must be cautious. If an area is different from its immediate surroundings, be very careful. White water usually mean that there are rocks (they create waves) underneath. A brown coloured area may imply that there is a sandbank underneath which in turn also implies that there is not too deep (slow down or you may hurt yourself, good news are that you can stand and walk on it). A very dark area can be caused by the presence of seaweed. Flatter areas may indicate the presence of currents. If water seems to be boiling, obviously, there are currents. Etc…
We must always have an idea about tide magnitude, if there is full moon or new moon (or we are close to them), tidal coefficients will be high and tide will go up a lot and very quickly and will go down in the same way. Remember this easy mnemonic rule, when tide goes down water goes back into the sea so the current is most likely to away from the shore. If tide goes up, water comes to the shore, the current should push you out. When tide changes the “reparo” (Spanish word) happens, so for 10 minutes or even more, there are no currents.
We must be aware of wave magnitude. Small waves with no period will always be fun and harmless. If they are big, pay attention, because danger is obvious. Be careful with the period (time between waves), if it is more than 10 seconds and the waves have an important height, for sure they will be dangerous waves (not wide or high, but "fat"), thus they move a large amount of water, difficult to see because they hide behind their thickness (you could see it from a lateral point of view). That huge mass is moving and carries a huge amount of energy, you will be dragged very easily (if we compare, I must say that a typical summer romp on the shore, by a small wave, even one meter and a half wave, even though you can be impressed they are just a child´s play, these waves have 5-6 seconds period at the most, they are generated by the small step that we usually find on the shore).
Fateful Sunday a super strong current from land to sea at river Jara´s mouth and great magnitude waves (great height and big period) came together. Everything caught by the current went inwards, at the same time waves pushed all outwards.
For a person that goes for a walk, it means that the current could trap him/her and drag him/her into the breakwater. Once there, tumbles and tumbles until you are able to get up and run out between two waves and at the same time you have to overcome the current. If this happens to you whilst holding kiteboarding equipment, packed or not, you will have serious problems, because it will be almost impossible to avoid being tangled.
For a sailor pushed by the wind, using a small board to slide, currents become a conveyor belt... If it takes you against the wind, it will generate apparent wind, adding extra power to your sail or kite. If it takes you into the wind direction, it will deduct apparent wind, subtracting power to your sail or kite; in case you use a kite, as it has no structure supporting it, if the current goes downwind, kite will have less wind, falling if we do not move it in an aggressive way to generate its own needed extra apparent wind. You have to anticipate these kite movements, because once you are on the "conveyor belt", lines will be slack and the kite will not react, falling with no remedy at all.
There are many unknowns about how things happened last Sunday, but I can assure you that the trap generated by the current (which was formed as soon as the tide changed and started to empty the lagoon) had almost all the blame. Waves did the rest.
Let's talk about the second important conclusion: the equipment. I never get tired of repeating this: your brand new super trendy colored kite costs a treasure at the shop. Perfect, you have saved enough, it has costed you time and effort to acquire it. Great, congratulations for your desired acquisition. Now let's talk about serious things: equipment can save your life or can take it away. Forget your kite bright colors and its famous performance (average grade for any kite in any of its websites it is usually around 9 out of 10 ...). If it helps you or you think that will help you, do not separate yourself from your kite. If it does not help you or you think it will aggravate your situation, release yourself from it, maybe later is too late, take your decision on time (in this case your brand new "inflatable traction kite SLE latest model" has become a miserable rag that exposes your body to the currents, rocks, hypothermia, etc ...).
Cases in which equipment could help you or could hurt you:
-Board: it will always provide you buoyancy, especially high volume boards (surf or surfkite, windsurf, race or freerace). If currents or wind takes you offshore, board will help you floating (twintips too). If there are waves, a surf board will help you going to the shore, a larger board can charm you in case of romp. I there are waves, a twintip can help a little bit if you point it to the shore, but I would stay away from it, its edge is like a blunt axe, or either you escape from it or you hug it to avoid being hit by it.
-Kite: If it takes you offshore, you must pick it up (be careful, you cannot pick the lines up on the bar, you must roll the lines on the bar to pick them up, turning the bar, because lines are tense). First of all, you have to be sure that only one line is tense. If you feel that wind or currents will push you too much offshore, then deflate the kite a bit so conditions will not push you so much (you can roll it and turn the kite into a large cylinder, keeping only the ribs pumped up). If wind/current is weak, so that it takes you slowly offshore, keep the kite pumped, you will be locatable in an easier way (you can even sit on the leading edge, if it is a big size kite and if you deflate it a little bit, you can try to self rescue grabbing the wingtips). Never fully deflate the kite, obviously. If you did not close the clips on the one-pump system, that´s not good! Be careful and do not deflate the kite too much (or close the clip on any rib before opening the deflate valve).
If the kite takes you to the shore, be very careful, you must kill the kite power as soon as possible, you must even release it (never if there are swimmers around or other beach users’ integrity is compromised). Remember that if there are more kiters, they will try to recover your kite and they will also try to help you. If there are waves you must act like a dolphin (being hydrodynamic) or release the kite totally, so if a wave pushes the kite, hopefully it does not break it.
Please note that self-rescue in side-off/offshore wind conditions means that getting close to the shore is difficult. If current goes inwards, self-rescue could be frustrated, because when it is not so deep, current could increase. There will be a moment when you must decide to pack everything and start swimming to the shore (if you think you will not be able to arrive to the shore, stop swimming before you get tired, or even better, much more time before you get tired).
Even if the situation is dramatic, talking again about the tragic accident, there is a moment when you should expect that kite lines will be slacked; you must then turn around or do a fast movement to keep it flying. If you do not expect it and kite falls, if there are big waves, you are still on time to release everything before getting tangled. So flag out the kite and activate the leash release, then swim to move away from the equipment. If there are waves, do not swim against them, because you will be pushed and you will go back where bar and lines are, it may be better swimming to the most appropriated side. If you think you will end up entangled with the lines, you have to cut them using the line cutter as soon as possible, later surely it is too late. Important: all of us have to carry a line cutter, to avoid reaching a compromising situation (in which most probably you will not be able to use it) and especially for helping other kiters cutting their lines, if necessary.
Sunday something happened, adding further complications: low and lonely clouds. Meteorology is a complex science, very complex. We need to think in terms of the worst case scenario, always: a low cloud will usually imply a change in wind intensity, usually a big amount of wind follows it, but not always. On Sunday, fateful chance, low clouds brought a "lull" or momentary total lack of wind. Kites were left with no power at all. Not only powerless, they were at the mercy of the sea; sea conditions when the accident took place were so that a very strong current was moving in and violent waves moving out. Bad mixture. Once you are involved in a situation like this, you must be ready to release the equipment and move away, escaping from it, if it is possible. Three tangled bars (Tereza´s, Mark´s and the French boy´s), it is very significant. I think there was no negligence at all, perhaps they took decisions late or maybe they even had not the opportunity to take them, perhaps one of them tried to help another one, perhaps two helped a third one, perhaps all of them were helping each other, perhaps everything started trying to help a fourth person, knowing the genuine camaraderie that all kiters always show, giving the best of us to help ourselves when difficult situations arrive (I have seen freestyle champions helping beginners and vice versa).
Perhaps they were sailing out to the shore and the current generated extra power that made them fall... It happened to several kiters there and their boards started going inward to the ocean. Maybe they tried to recover their boards. Perhaps they arrived walking along the shore carrying packed equipment, or half way packed. Perhaps one was sailing, one was walking and the other one was floating at the mercy of the sea ... The French boy and his testimony could clarify something. But perhaps we will never know what really happened, because when waves are high, they hide what is happening behind them.
What we know for sure is that all of them were tangled. What we also know for sure is that the accident main cause was the exceptionally strong current at the river mouth, which took them all away into the waves. Then waves made everything else.
So, I am sure that fault was not on any of them. Simplifying the facts, they were either walking crossing the river mouth or they reached the shore sailing, when the current took them into the waves.
What we also know is that their kiting buddies rescued their bodies and tried to reanimate them. There is no better option than being rescued by another kiter, it is just immediate. Then, never forget this protocol: 1-Protect, 2-Warn, 3-Help medically. They were protected, doctor was warned and they were secured in the best possible way. Maybe something else could have been done in terms of CPR, as there is no evidence of specialized personnel using the appropriate equipment around. It was impossible to use the defibrillator due to the wet environment, with water and wet people around. A quicker evacuation to a dry area would have been useful. Of course I have no doubt that kite mates who were there attempted resuscitation with all their strength. Never forget this, if there is no pulse or no breathing: 30-2 Protocol. So 30 compressions and 2 breaths (children and drowned person, you have to start with 5 breaths, then you continue with 30-2 Protocol; in case of children, compressions with only one hand). It is important to have a respite, or even two.
I wish everyone had this thought: never be afraid of the sea, but always respect it. The key for increasing our capabilities, if things turn too complicated, is keeping calm to keep our energy, so we can use it when really worthwhile.
Conclusions about actions non-related to kiteboarding and common to other accidents on the beach and inaccessible sites or location:
-When you dial 112 (emergency phone number in Spain), you have to be clear and concise, think before you call what you are going to say. Quiet, take air and use some seconds to prioritize information. Anything else you should not say will create confusion, especially when giving the location. If there are businesses or striking things on the closest paths, think about them. If there is wind, it is very important to keep the mobile phone covered by the head, downwind from your head.
-112 (emergency number in Spain) receptionists: Please, assure the location, ask again in case of doubts or even ask the location through a mobile application. It is better to waste 2 minutes than inhibiting the assistance. Coast has no streets and no numbers to locate easily, so focusing on business, striking things or close paths is essential.
-Business or private people, security forces, environment agent, ecologists, tourists, ultimately, anyone that owns a 4x4 vehicle: you are necessary. If you need it, deflate the wheels. Do not hesitate and access to the site to transfer the injured, at least, to the nearest path or road. Forget all current regulations, if you can save a life, I think no law should impede it. Extreme your caution when driving, ensure the maneuvers to avoid getting stuck and, of course, avoid dangers to others (be very careful because someone may be behind a dune).
-Sanitary crew: We are all willing to help, if your physical form or clothes hardens your work, sportsmen around will carry whatever you need, even yourselves if necessary, thus you can start your work as soon as possible.
-City Hall members: you can establish the best protocol and have a 4x4 vehicle on fastest possible time. It does not matter if it is a police car, a beach bar owner´s car or even a seized car from a drug dealer. That 4x4 can save lives. Similarly, the ambulance must have a privileged place, reserved for parking, the closest parking place to the beach, obviously. I urge you to procure a basic life support helicopter for everybody, 365 days, 24 h.
-Rescue towers: I'm no marketing expert, but I imagine any big company would pay for them and maintain them in return to use it for their products ads. Money should not be an excuse to build them. Life guards, whose mission would be just observing and warning in case of need (going into the water is not even requested), only need to notice that someone is in trouble, that other beach users cannot help and activate the appropriated protocol. I think you just have to analyze hours and salary for viability, and if it is only possible during weekends and holidays, that is better than nothing. By the way, beaches life guards go home 1-2 hours before sunset during summer and that has no sense at all, they should start later and end when the sun sets.
I hope that last Sunday unfortunate accident at least helps us to improve the response to similar situations. Tereza and Mark´s memory will make it possible.
- These users thanked the author Toby for the post (total 2):
- lightwind (Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:27 pm) • Kamikuza (Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:43 pm)