Tube Kiting Safety Alert
Just before the holiday weekend, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a safety warning about the new but increasingly popular water sport of tube kiting--in which a person flies across water in a large inflatable tube (sometimes 10 feet or more in diameter) that is drawn by a boat traveling between 25 and 35 miles per hour. (You can see how this works by watching some of the videos at YouTube.com--and you have to admit it does look like a lot of fun.)
But the agency says tube kiting is "extremely dangerous." The agency said it knows of at least two deaths associated with tube kiting this year and 12 serious injuries, including a broken neck, punctured lung, broken ribs, broken femur, chest and back injuries and facial injuries.
The CPSC said it is investigating two versions of kite tubes to see if there is a significant product hazard. That's a very unusual admission for the agency which usually doesn't announce its investigations until they are completed. But spokeswoman Julie Vallese said the agency believed that it needed to issue its alert "in advance of the holiday weekend when people are out in water" and may be tempted to use this product.
According to the CPSC, the injuries may occur from the rider's difficulty in controlling the tube, the boat operator's inexperience and the reaction of the tube in certain weather conditions. The agency is particularly concerned about wind gusts that can cause the tube to spin out of control, or sudden slowing or stopping by the boat operator which can cause the tube to nose dive into the water. "In some cases, the sudden stopping of the boat might cause the tube rider to continue past the boat and hit it or other boats or stationary objects, such as a bridge."
While there are warning labels on the products, most of these are for the boat operator. The ones for the riders are more limited, such as: "Only go as high as you're willing to fall."
Tube kites, mostly triangular in shape, were first sold in 2003. In 2005, the Wego Kite Tube--a 10-foot diameter model made by SportsStuff that sells for about $600--was introduced. Most of the accidents the CPSC is investigating have occurred in the past year.
The tubes have been banned in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which includes Lake Powell, where there have been at least four serious injuries.
Michael Beckelman, an attorney for SportsStuff, said the company believes all of its products are safe if they are used responsibly and in accordance with the provided instructions. He said the company declined to comment specifically on the CPSC investigation.