A Florida kite surfer died in a freak accident after a sudden, strong gust of wind hurled him more than 400 feet and slammed him into the side of a house.
The man — identified in social media as Fred Salter, a 61-year-old cancer survivor — hadn’t even gotten into the water in Fort Lauderdale when the powerful wind launched him into the air Wednesday morning, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
“He was windsurfing on the beach, and the wind picked up and threw him against the building, and he went down,” a witness told 911, WSVN reported. “He’s unconscious on the floor. He’s bleeding.”
Surveillance video showed Salter trying to fight for control of the kite, but the wind was too strong and dragged him along the sand before he went airborne.
“He was attempting to kite surf in the ocean behind the address here, actually, just two doors down, when strong winds came into the area unexpectedly, and he was not able to release from the kite in a timely manner,” Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Stephen Gollan said, according to WSVN
“So we went from relatively calm conditions to extremely dangerous conditions in a short period of time,” he added.
Gollan said Salter had been wearing a harness that was securely connected to his apparatus, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Experienced surfers were at a loss as to why he did not either let go of the bar or activate one of two releases that would have freed him from the kite.
“Letting go of the bar solves 90 percent of problems,” Graham Goodwin, owner of Fort Lauderdale Kitesurfing, which offers lessons, told the newspaper.
Kitesurfers venture into the water on a surfboard and use the kite to rise above the waves, usually coming down within a few seconds.
Goodwin said mutual friends had warned Salter about the winds that day before he set up on the beach Wednesday morning. A weather advisory had been issued in Broward County minutes before the accident.
“He could be a little bit reckless at times,” Goodwin told the Sun-Sentinel. “But he was out there often. He was very experienced.”
Salter was above land the whole time before striking the second floor of a private home on North Atlantic Boulevard, Gollan said.
The victim was rushed to Broward Health Medical Center, where he died three hours later.
The father, grandfather and cancer survivor died doing what he loved, according to friends.
“He loved what he did, and [he was] one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I’m just in shock right now,” friend Heather Hentges told WSVN. “I can’t believe it. I’m just so sad for him.”
Friend Mike Bradley told WPLG that Salter had been kite surfing for years and that he had recently beaten cancer.
“I keep thinking I should’ve been there this morning, but I can’t think that because Freddy was a very intelligent waterman,” Bradley told the station. “And it’s just how fast something can happen on the water. It’s just crazy.”