Para-kiting enthusiasts warned to check equipment after boy breaks back in fall
LUCY BANNERMAN
STUNT kite enthusiasts were warned yesterday to check their equipment after a boy whose family runs a kite business broke his back in a fall.

Joseph Probst, 14, was injured when a line on his "traction" kite snappped and he fell 15ft to the ground as he tried it out with his father, Andrew, on the beachfront at Arbroath.

The Forfar Academy pupil, of Dundee Road, Letham, is in a serious but stable condition at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, and is awaiting specialist treatment at the National Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow after the accident at the weekend.

The 7ft kite gives the feeling of walking with no gravity as the kite lifts the user gently in the air before wafting to the ground.

His father, who runs Kite-A-Traction, said: "That kite had only been out of the bag three times. I used it just before he did. He was pulled up around 15ft and the line broke. He only fell 10-15ft on to grass. I thought he was going to get up but the way he fell he has been really unlucky."

Mr Probst warned people to take care when using the kites and to make sure they check the lines before using them, especially in high winds.

He said: "We have sold a few of these kites to other people and I would urge them to get the lines checked out."

Speaking yesterday from her son's bedside, Joseph's mother, Ria said: "It's a hard thing to cope with but we're just going to have to take things slowly, a day at a time. He loved para-kiting so much, he tried to do it every weekend or as much as he could. It was just a really unfortunate fall."

Traction kites have two layers of aerofoil through which air flows, enabling the person at the end of the lines to be pulled off the ground. It is controlled by two power lines at the front and two brakes lines at the back.

Para-kiting has gained in popularity in the last two years, particularly on north-east beaches. Equipment can cost between £100-£500.

Bjorn Verduijn, owner and manager of kite shop Wind Wizard, in Glasgow, believes people new to the sport often underestimate the dangers.

"It's trendy. But there is a lot of risk involved," he said. "People who have never flown a kite before come into the shop and ask for really big kites. Many are looking for the most powerful ones and make the wrong choice. It's very important for kite shops to gauge the need of the customer.

"The wind can be really unpredictable - all of a sudden it can pick up from nowhere and double the wind speed. All lines have different breaking strengths. Strong winds, knots, wear and tear all affect safety."

Robin Johnston, a spinal consultant neurosurgeon at the National Spinal Injuries Unit, said it treated some 180 new spinal injuries every year.

He said the recovery process depended on whether a patient had damaged the spinal cord, or simply broken vertebrae.

"About 80-100 of the new patients we see have some form of nerve damage or paralysis. If the nerve injury is complete - with no sensation at all - only a small percentage will recover.

"The rest will have different rates of recovery. Some will do so very early, within a week or two while the more profound injuries can take up to two years. "

- Aug 5th

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