Kite Tube Claims Life

A link to this story was posted as a comment to an earlier post I made about the Kite Tube. Based on this story and a number of the comments to the last kite tube post it’s not safe! Please don’t take your life into your own hands with one of these. The constantly changing angle-of-attack, combined with weight shifts from the rider and the lack of drag make this an extremely unpredictable “kite”.

KFDM-TV Channel Six News writes…

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department tonight is investigating the death of a man who fell off something called a kite tube and landed in the water near the Neches River and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Advertisers say buy a kite tube, and you’ll reach ‘incredible heights.’

Water sports enthusiast Don Burnett says, “As wind gets underneath it, you just start to fly.”

Three weeks ago Burnett of Lumberton ordered a kite tube.

Burnett says, “Adrenaline water sport we enjoy doing.”

But as Texas Parks and Wildlife knows first hand, the thrill of flight can leave danger in its wake. On Sunday 33-year-old James Freeland of Orangefield died after falling off a kite tube near Stutes Island where the Neches River meets the Intracoastal Waterway.

Game Warden Robbie Smith says, “Common sense is really an oxymoron. People don’t use it that often. They don’t think before.”

According to another game warden’s preliminary report, Freeland was about 15 feet in the air on the tube. Several witnesses say the kite tube turned onto its side in the air and then fell to the water. Freeland was knocked off. His neck was injured, and he died at a hospital.

Smith says, “It sounds like it was just an accident. As far as being able to put responsibility on somebody, I don’t know you can.”

An instructional video on sportsstuff.com says the boat driver has far more control over the rider than in other water sports.

The announcer on the video says, “The speed, height and flight control are all directly associated with the boat driver.”

Parks and Wildlife says there is no evidence the driver was impaired, and he hasn’t been cited. But the accident has caused Burnett to rethink whether he’ll take a ride on his tube when it arrives.

Burnett says, “Certainly something I’ll look into and evaluate and weigh the options as far as fun and the risk of getting hurt or harmed.”

Game wardens admit they don’t know much about this new extreme sport, so they’re not suggesting you avoid it. But they agree with the words printed on this tube, ‘Never kite higher than you’re willing to fall.’

Freeland will be laid to rest on Thursday. KFDM News checked with local stores, and we couldn’t find any that sell kite tubes. For comments or questions about this story contact Sally MacDonald at 895-4662 or sallymac@kfdm.com.

  34 comments for “Kite Tube Claims Life

  1. Deborah McCann
    14 June, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    Friends of mine have bought a Kite Tube. After a few hours of use, have decide to get rid of it before one of their kids gets killed. I would like to know how the hell they got on to the market in the first place?

  2. Sue Johnson
    16 June, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    Stupid is, is what stupid does. It is sooo obvious that this is just another dangerous water toy. Like many that have come and gone on the market, this one just takes a minute of common sense and thinking it through to determine “Are you fricking nuts? What part of water, plus speed, plus height don’t you understand? To run this thing at crowded State Parks or Federal waterways is just plain INSANE! Heck, its insane just to water-ski when we are packing boats into tiny bodies of water and making us all travel the same way in fear that we will run into each other, or not allowing us to jump out of our boats to swim, because of the danger of too many boats on the water. And now, we are putting someone on a flying tube? The word FLYING is key! HOWEVER, this is America and if you want to be stupid, you are allowed to, because your insurance companies, lawyers, and the court systems protect us from being stupid. Then at the end of the day, we bitch about soaring cost and frivilous lawsuits. pay for it.

    Good for you Deborah for protecting our court systems from STUPID. Remember, STUPID HURTS!!

  3. Johansen
    26 June, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    Stupid is people who don’t follow the guidelines, use the Kite Tube incorrectly and ruin it for the smart people out there. If you follow the instructions and have a boat driver who has half a brain, the Kite Tube works great.

  4. mike hajduke
    26 June, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    We took it up in winds at about 25 knots and had no reason to think this thing could realistically hurt you. We assumed you would always have time to ball up before impact. We had never even come close to getting hurt up to this point too. I was on the third pass and it was really exciting up to this point and I felt pretty much under control. The last pass I was at the 25ft. height and in the blink of an eye it took off higher until it couldn’t go any higher, which meant it had to come down. Hopefully you can imagine the physics here and the way that something can only go so high while it is connected to a lower point before it has to come back down. When it had to come down, from what we all think was about 30-40ft, it threw me like you would throw a rock directly at the water. I was violently shot at the water and thankfully it was on my face and knee that took the brunt of impact. It was like getting into a head on car wreck and there was a point where you knew your life was not in your control. All of the warning look like sales gimics on the tube because it appears as a selling point for them. It could be used responsibily and with fun but the way they have it packaged does not convey the life threatening dangers you can get in before you know it. I’m on day 2 of recovery and after reading these stories I’m thankful I should heal a lot faster than these other guys. Do not buy this Tube is the bottom line!!!

  5. brian r
    27 June, 2006 at 12:47 am

    I actually bought a kite tube and had a terrible fall(probably should be dead!). I think people should know that your life is at verr high risks everytime your on it and take your time on it or get rid off it.

  6. sam
    27 June, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    My friend took a header from about 20 feet. He was rushed to the hospital (3 hours away) with torn lungs.

  7. Darby Brumbelow
    27 June, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    I live in Arizona with 2 roomates and we go boating about every weekend. We purchased the kite tube and it has been alot of fun, no one has been hurt yet. I think it has alot to do with the fact that we are responsible with it and do not try it excessive speeds. It is all up to whoever is using it that makes it dangerous.

  8. Jeff
    27 June, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    People are so quick to judge when half of them have never tried it themselves. My friends and I have a wego tube and have gone out many times with no incidents. The rush from the experience dwarfs every other water sport that I have tried, but this is an EXTREME sport and should not be used for cildren.(as warnings state) Yet I see it all the time, small kids, excessive speed, and stupid people are ruining this sport for the responsible fans of the Wego Kite Tube.

  9. Rob
    28 June, 2006 at 10:07 am

    I’m done with the Wego tube… it’s waaaay too dangerous. I was pulling my fiancee yesterday, and she was doing fine about three feet clear of the water. In about a second, a puff of wind took her up to about twelve feet, it flipped and tossed her like a rag doll. She landed on her face. Her doctor said she’s lucky to be alive, as the force of the impact was so severe that the entire left side of her head is bruised.

    No thanks.

    And as for “stupid people ruining it”, I am an extremely experienced boat driver, I’ve done just about everything one can do on the water (including barefooting), and this tube is the most inherently dangerous thing I’ve ever experienced. It can go from tame and under control to smashing you in to the water in a heartbeat.

  10. Nick
    28 June, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    This thing is obviously not dangerous at 1 MPH or low heights, it gets dangerous when you go to fast or get too high. Sorry about people getting hurt, but WEGO did not choose the speed and height that YOU allowed to get to. It is all YOUR fault. People need to take responsibility for their won safety and the consequences. This is just a object, the conditions and way it is used is completely up to those using it. Irresponsible people ruin everything….

  11. John
    29 June, 2006 at 12:55 am

    Two people have now died since May as a direct result of using this product. There have been numerous web accounts of serious injuries sustained as well. This product does not exhibit enough control mechanisms for safe operation (even for an extreme sport!) Have you ever flown a kite where the wind grabbed it and sent it into a hard nose dive? I’m sure you have. The point is that the rider can not always control his own actions/movements. And there’s no slow way of coming down like in parasailing. I’m also sure the manufacturer will be under increased pressure to pull this product (even though it has a disclaimer). Sorry to all who have used this safely (so far), but I believe this is one of those products that the general public should be warned about.

  12. Tina
    30 June, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    My family has always been involved in watersports and we have always played safely. We could not help the gust of wind that launched me 30 foot into the air nor the twist of wind that caused me to freefall into the river. I was the lucky one. Sustained only bruising on my legs, thighs, butt and lungs. I urge anyone who has one to get rid of it. If you see someone else with one, go tear a hole in it. The thrill is not worth the pain and/or loss of life.

  13. JB
    30 June, 2006 at 11:13 pm

    Bought this, looked fun. Towed it with a PWC, so you know right there it didn’t get going very fast. Towed my brother first. After about 10 minutes, he caught a big gust of wind, flew up, flipped over, slammed into the water. It knocked the breath out of him, and knocked his contacts out of his eyes. He decided to end his turn. My turn next. 15 or 20 minutes, no problems. Most of the time I was dragging in the water – maybe hopping a couple feet in the air, then coming back down. I’m 220lbs, pulled by a Polaris watercraft. It’s a mix for low speed/low altitude, right? Hit a gust of wind, lifted me about 25-30 feet into the air, the tube flipped and slammed down to the water. Knocked the breath out of me and burst my eardrum. The whole side of my face was numb for a few minutes. My neck and back are so sore, I feel like I’ve been in a car wreck. Doc says I got 4 weeks of no water play to let my ear heal. There goes the middle of the frickin’ summer. This tube sux.

  14. Chad
    1 July, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    I am thinking about getting a kite tube…. and as i was reading these comments i realized that the people who drive the boat are really the ones who put the other peoples lives on the line. and the people in the kite tube can not control what happens.

  15. Justin
    1 July, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    have you even tried to follow what the label is saying “never kite higher thanyou are willing to fall” well hello you can choose what hight you fly at it is all in how you ride itand at what lenght the rope is DUH
    sure me and my friend took some pretty bad falls and another thing it takes quite a bit of effort to get it at a good hieght so my word of advise is when you do go to use it make sure you know what the hell you are doing and dont just rush into things because it looks like fun know there is probably more to it. I also would suggest you make sure you have good balance and learn to get the feel for the tube before trying to make it fly as higg as you can (the rider has some control over how high it goes) by the way 15mph-20mph is just perfect for on a lake.

  16. Randy Kladivo
    1 July, 2006 at 10:27 pm

    For those that consider themselves experts, read on. My son was flying one last Sunday when a weird gust hit the Kite tube. He shot up another 10 feet and then the tube violently bucked him off. He hit the water hard. He was very experienced and had no trouble keeping the tube under control but something happened and he lost all control. When he hit the water, he was knocked unconsious. To make a long story short, he severed his aorta and should be dead. He was extremely lucky and should be released from the hospital tommorrow. For those that are still out there flying their tubes, please think twice. As others have said, “there’s not enough rider control,” and someone will become a statistic on your tube. I was pulling my son and was a small part of why he lives today, but I have 25 years of Emergency Medical work to guide me in his care. Can you say as much? And even if you can, do you really want to take the risk of killing a family member or friend?

  17. ERIC NELSON
    3 July, 2006 at 10:45 am

    These are dangerous! Plain and simple! It dosent matter how responsible you are or arent. I was one of the unfortunate ones who was present when the gentleman up in Wisconsin was killed. He was no more then 2 feet in the air when the kite slammed him into the water. He was knocked unconscious and but gained consciousness upon arriving at the boat dock. He died of sever internal injuries. If you have one please see if you can return it and if you cant….throw it away!

  18. 4 July, 2006 at 1:29 am

    I happened to see these things on CNN. I only caught part of the segment but got curious enough to look them up. After reading all the previous responses, I see that most are missing the obvious. For all the claims of boating or watersport experience, there really doesn’t seem to be much here. I find it hard to believe that all these folks can spend so much time on the water and be so naive as to the possibilities and consequences of wind gusts. These things are clearly an extreme (I.E. high-performance) vehicle….”common sense not included”. Clearly, these should be left to those with at least some experience in aerodynamics and wind on water. A large, open, flat area….who would think the wind might suddenly pick-up or gust!?! Wind cools rapidly, as it passes over water. Ever hear of a hurricane, tornado, waterspout or dust-devil? Warm and cold air, mixing together…always bad medicine! The deaths are a tragedy but blaming human actions on an inanimate object isn’t going to bring them back or solve any problems here.

    I’ve been skydiving for years, I am almost totally at the mercy of the wind. If I drive myself into the ground, I can’t blame the parachute mfgr. or the airplane pilot for my stupidity. Driving a motorboat or barefoot skiing hardly qualifies you as a pilot. This thing gets airborne and therefore requires a pilot, not a counterweight. Wind breaks downward, over any obstruction…trees, structures, hills….whatever. Every object on the water creates turbulence, as the wind passes. I can’t see where any of the previous posters appear to be even vaguely aware of the wind and its actions and reactions. I see no references made to “angle of attack” here. I doubt that few, if any…know what that is or its relevance to flight.

    As far as children being allowed in something that requires “piloting”, I have to wonder. If you’d do something that irresponsible, you’d be likely to give a 2-year old a beer and the keys to the car…and tell ‘em “be home by midnight”! Really, man….some people are just too incompetent to even be allowed near the water, that’s the bottom line here.

  19. TJ
    5 July, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Well, I might as well add my two cents… I also am a casualty of one of these kite tubes. Just like it has been said, I hit a gust of wind, was shot up about 20 feet & then was violently thrown back to the water before the boat driver had a chance to react. At least that’s what I was told as I remember none of it. I was knocked out face down in the water for about 2 min before the boat could get to me but I luckly started breathing again just after they picked me up. I sustained a serious concusion & some memory loss. A friend with us, earlier that day, burst his ear drum in the same fashion. All I can say is regardless of safety procedures followed & “skill” of the boat driver or tube rider, you WILL get seriously hurt. I also am a hang glider pilot, a sport which I find signifigantly safer than these kite tubes!

  20. John B.
    6 July, 2006 at 10:34 am

    Darby, Johansen

    Count you blessings, it is only a matter of time and you will be visiting a hospital. The rest of you are exactly correct. I have been waterskiing, wake boarding, tubing with jetskis and boats for over 20 years. The Wego tube does work great half the time, the other half is what you need to worry about. The boat driver can control the tube to some degree but not the wind. I also took a sixteen year old to the hospital who had a slight head injury after falling only five feet. I watched the tube hit gust of winds and fly 15 feet in the air within seconds. Thank God no one fell off at the height. Like I said, it will only be a matter of time for those that think they know what they are doing, to be visiting a hospital shortly. Just be willing to liver with yourself after reading all the comments on this site………

  21. william church
    6 July, 2006 at 11:44 am

    The Sports Stuff Wego Kite Tube is a very hazardous sporting device that should be pulled from the market. While it was given the 2006 Sports Manufacturer Product of the Year, it will kill people that want to have fun with their towable “toy”. http://www.sportsstuff.com/towables/wego/

    I am a very active 42 year old and have tried many different sports: wake boarding, water skiing, inter tubing, wind surfing, kite board sailing, snow boarding, snow skiing, knee boarding, barefooting, parasailing, and others. I have never come across a product that I thought could kill me until my recent incident with the Wego Kite Tube. I ask for your help in getting this device off the market. Since my accident I have heard a boat dealer in Columbus OH sent his tubes back because someone died on it in Texas. I wish I had known.

    Here are a few photos from my smack down on the Kite Tube Saturday 7/1/06. After flying the but 25-30 feet in the air, it inverted and whipped me into the water as we were going 40mph. Luckily, I curled into a ball and have a lot of extra padding in my butt. I was knocked unconscious and floating face down until I was pulled out of the water by the driver Jim Bennett. I am fine, with some bruising, 2 broken ribs and a punctured lung. All will heal. I am sending the tube back. It certainly wasn’t stable when it was flying. Of all the sports I have tried, this was the most dangerous and is going to kill someone. Luckily, it wasn’t my time…

    I want to get the word out that this will kill people and it is not a toy for children.

  22. TJ
    7 July, 2006 at 10:16 am

    Well said William. If enough people post their mishaps with this tube, word will get out & hopefully it will be taken off the market before more people are killed (two that I know of already).

  23. S Sullivan
    8 July, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    I’m a reporter with a national Canadian news agency: if any Canadians are interested in talking about their experiences with kite tubing, please send me an email by the afternoon of July 8 at ssullivannews@gmail.com.

  24. b church
    11 July, 2006 at 7:52 am

    If anyone with serious injuries wants to hit Sportsstuff where it counts, in the bank account, this attorney is handling 2 death claims. Just saw a story on CBS today about it. Finally, we are getting the word out. the difference between this tube and other extreme sports is the training required before purchase. I kite board and was forbidden to buy a kite before I had a lesson. These tubes are sold at many retail outlets like a natural extension to intertubing. the rider has no control except for ejecting or hanging on to the bronco. I don’t care what the directions say, moving your weight will not stop the tube from nose diving in many wind conditions. and the driver can’t predict wind gusts. attorney…BMazzola@davidbernsen.com
    wwww.davidbernsen.com

  25. Casey Vaughan
    11 July, 2006 at 3:01 pm

    My husband decided that we were going to have to have a wego kite tube by Memorial Day for the weekend at Lake Greenwood in South Carolina. Not only did we pay five hundred dollars for the tube and an extra hundred to have it by the weekend but it also gave us a trip to the local hospital. My husband was the first rider, not so bad he just had some pain in his leg were it slammed him in the water. The 2nd rider is a good freind or ours. He gets on and gets some air and in a matter of a second the kite went down and he lokked like a rag doll hitting the water. Well this is were we pulled back around to pick him up and his leg is straight and his foot looks like a peice of rubber just hanging on his leg. We get to the hospital and the doctor tells us that he will have to have surgery to repair the bones in his foot. He now has a metal plate and seven screws in his foot and not to mention that he is still in a cast. I sent the tube back to the company that we bought it from, they tried to give me a hard time about it until I told them what had happened. They did charge me a 20% restocking fee. I would advise anyone who has one to return it while you still can because they will cost you thousands in doctor bills.

  26. Chad
    11 July, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    I suffered a broken shoulder this fourth of july weekend on the kite tube when a gust of wind shot me up 40 feet in the air and then threw me off. I landed onm the tube and broke my shoulder luckilly it wasn’t my neck – – Stay off the kite tube!!!!!!!!

  27. Crystal
    13 July, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    We bought a kite tube off ebay on July 4th. We could not wait to get it into the water, little did we know that I would end up in the emergency room. I have injured my neck and had trauma to my kidneys. I am very thankful that I wasn’t hurt any worse. I fell from about 15 feet when the tube was taken by a gust of wind. It felt like it knocked my eyes to the back of my head and almost knocked me out. I have hit the water pretty hard before but never like this. It felt just like I had jumped from the top of a house and landed on cement. This tube is very dangerous and it only took one fall for me to know that I would never get on it again.

  28. Nikki
    14 July, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    on june 25th I caught a gust of wind sending me sailing off the kite tube leaving me with a swollen ankle, went to the ER and it was broken, June 26 went to a bone dr. they said that I needed sugery, I had a plate and 6 screws placed in my ankly through surgery on June 28th, was on bedrest no work no pay, July 6th I went to have my cast put on and returned to work on July 7th. I am getting married on August 26,2006. Great wedding present. The Kite Tube is very dangerous, especially when wind sends is sailing!

  29. Brandon
    14 July, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    These tubes have now been recalled by the company and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. You can contact the company for a replacement tube at 866-831-5524 or http://www.sportsstuff.com

  30. Bob
    16 July, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    Well, It will be a bit sad to see it go. It was one of the neatest feelings ever to get that airborn. But as stated above, the kite tube was not very stable if the center of gravity shifted, or the wind changed, or the driver did something wild. However my hardest fall on it happeded the first time I went airborn. The driver hadn’t had someone actually get airborn yet, and though I fell off. So he shut down the throttle. The tube lost lift, and I came crashing down.
    Those that have seen the tube, will know that there are handles and skid pads on the top of this think. My knee and chest nailed a row of them as I came down. I bounced 4 feet verticle, and landed on my back on the tube. I was lucky, got my knees skinned and some bruises on my chest.
    It really was neat, but it took 30 MPH to get me airborn at 200 lb. that is a far cry from the advertised 10-15 on the web site. At those speeds. and witha a 10-15 MPH headwind, the dynamics for a dangerous fall are a lot greater than if I am on a slalom ski cutting all out behind the boat.

    that all being said, it was truly a rush when you were airborn. But I think this tool gives the driver, way too much responsibility in the boat. He can’t see the winds, won’t see a crosswind, and can’t predict a change in the rider’s handling.

  31. Jason Wiest
    27 July, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    I’m a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and I’m writing an article about the safety of kite tubing. I’d really like to talk to one of you people who posted about a scary experience you’ve had with kite tubes. However, most of your names don’t lead me to an email address. If anyone is still watching this post, and you’ve had a bad experience with the tube, please contact me at jwiest@arkansasonline.com. My deadline is tonight. Give me your number, I’ll call and we’ll talk. Thanks.

  32. 8 January, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    first off this is not a sport. i agree that normal tubing is fun and all but any kind of tubing is not a sport. kite tubing being dangerous doesnt make it a sport. in a sport you the rider have full control and there is actually physical strength involved…not just leaning back

    its not the drivers fault-as you can see from all the posts. we dont have retards at the wheel. it doesnt matter if the driver is a kiteboarder, windsurfer, a wakeboarder, a good driver, or even all of the above.

    its not the riders fault-it doesnt matter if the rider is any of the above that i listed. the tube WILL slam you. i dont care how safe you are

    the warning on the tube says dont fly higher than you are willing to fall. the problem is that the rider has very little control of the tube. he cant say “oh i only want to go 5 feet in the air” because the wind gusts are not expected and they can throw the rider up another 10 or more feet in less than a second

    its like buying a computer that will explode in your face…but the thing is that some people were informed enough to know that it will explode in their face and they buy it anyway(retards)…others havent heard so much about it and then they find out when its too late

    the point is that they cant go around selling tubes that will injure/kill people

  33. 6 June, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    The point IS, there are products on the market that are sold everyday that can injure/kill people. There is an 80% chance of serious personal injury whenever a motorcycle is involved in a crash! So, do cycle company’s pull their products because they are serious dangers involved; I dont think so. Do riders stop riding them; I dont think so. You ride a bike and use other things for that matter knowing there is a high risk for injury and you operate them your own discretion.

    Note to John:
    And if tubing isn’t a sport then all other water activities like wakeboarding,skiing,ect. aren’t either. Not anyone can ride a tube just like not anyone can skii/wakeboard. It takes a lot of strength and balance to last on a tube just like skiing takes a lot of balance(obviously more balance then tubing). My point here is that kite boarding IS an extreme sport and should only be left for people that enjoy extreme activities(knowing that they can be seriously hurt at any given second). Stupid or not, this is the joy with people participating in these extreme kinds of activities giving them that rush of adrenalin…

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