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Kiteboarding death in Nelson attributed to risk implicit in the activity

The death of a Nelson land boarder at Wakapuaka on Christmas Eve was a tragic accident and part of the implicit risks involved in the sport, a coroner says.

Coroner Carla na Nagara gave her findings into the death of experienced kite and land boarder Ruben Laas at an inquest held at the Nelson District Court yesterday.

Mr Laas was killed at the Wakapuaka sand flats from blunt head and chest injuries after he was repeatedly slammed into the ground in a kite boarding accident.

He was first picked up by a gust of wind and dragged across the sandflats on his stomach 100m and was then pulled up into the air to a height of 15m.

His kite filled up and he was pulled across a paddock and dropped hard a further three to four times.

He was initially seen to land on his feet, but in subsequent drops he appeared limp.

Mr Laas came to rest when his kite got caught in a fence.

His safety gear and padding was found scattered across the mudflats.

Mr Laas was a vastly experienced and safety conscious land boarder and the kite he was using on the day at 15sqm was considered large for the strong wind.

The wind at Nelson Airport at the time was recorded at 26 knots gusting to 32 knots, but evidence at the inquest from people with local knowledge said the wind was stronger at Wakapuaka.

Ms na Nagara said the safety release mechanism on Mr Laas' kite was not disabled but had been set up in such a way as to make it extremely difficult to use.

The red toggle pulled to engage the mechanism, was firmly tucked up into a black material casing. This meant it was difficult to access and pull out.

He could have released the kite by pulling it down and unhooking it, but in the strong wind conditions this would have also been extremely difficult to do.

"With reference to the various means he had to release the kite it needs to be borne in mind the kite would have been under considerably weight and the events were unfolding very rapidly and could be measured more in seconds than in minutes."

"Having considered all the evidence before me I find his death was a tragic accident, which has to be seen as a reflection of the risk implicit in the activity he was undertaking."

Full story http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/5025839/Inquest-death-a-tragic-a...

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