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Kite tubes are recalled

Glen Canyon park banned the product after 4 serious injuries

SHARE Kite tubes are recalled

Deseret Morning News graphic

In the wake of several deaths and numerous injury reports at lakes across the nation, including Utah's Lake Powell, SportsStuff announced Thursday it is voluntarily recalling about 19,000 Wego kite tubes.

SportsStuff CEO Leroy Peterson wrote, "While SportsStuff does not believe that the products are defective or unreasonably dangerous . . . SportsStuff is cooperating with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to withdraw the kite tubes from the market."

Four serious kite-tube-related injuries occurred at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area over a two-month period before the park banned them in June. After that, most stores stopped carrying the item. Marine Products and Boater's Outlet owners declined to comment on their decision to pull the item from their shelves or the ensuing recall.

In kite tubing, a speedboat tows a rider on the 10-foot-diameter tube, and the tube glides in the air. The item appeared on the market only nine months ago, but U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese said a plethora of injuries and several death reports warranted the recall.

The CPSC knew of two deaths and 12 serious injuries related to kite tubes when it began investigations in late June, Vallese said. According to KFDM-TV, a news station in Texas, the first death occurred in April when 33-year-old James Freeland of Orangefield, Texas, fell 15 feet and struck the water. The next fatal accident occurred June 26 on the waters of Little St. Germaine Lake, Wis., killing Gregory Bykowski.

Jim Roadt, of New Berlin, Wis., said conditions were perfect the day his friend, Bykowski, died. "Glass-smooth water, no wind, no traffic," Roadt wrote in a June 29 e-mail to a Deseret Morning News reporter.

A boat towed Bykowski, 42, of Delafield, Wis., on a kite tube at approximately 30 mph. The tube rose about 3 feet in the air for a few seconds then it suddenly veered to the right and nose-dived. Bykowski struck the water face first.

An EMT arrived and cared for Bykowski immediately. He died five hours later at the hospital. The autopsy reported a lacerated artery in the liver caused his death.

"(The kite tube) was 3 feet off the ground," Roadt wrote in his e-mail account. "These things should be off the market."

Mere weeks into the CPSC investigation, a 40-year-old man died at Belwood Lake in Ontario, Canada. The injury count spiked to 39 injuries, 26 of which required medical treatment. Injuries included a broken neck, a punctured lung, broken ribs, chest and back injuries.

"Considering it is peak season for the use of these products, it was in the best interests of the consumer to recall these items," Vallese said.

Jay Schneider, SportsStuff marketing director, said he has looked into many of the injury reports and found each injury resulted because people neglected to follow posted safety precautions.

"In every instance that resulted in an injury, the boat driver far exceeded the recommended maximum speed for safe operation," he said. "Moreover, the unsafe speeds reported far exceed those recommended for water skiing, wakeboarding and tubing and could have resulted in an injury there, too."

Some argue the kite tube is no more dangerous than a motor bike or other products that have been on the market for years, but Vallese said the commission felt there was a recognizable danger.

"The real hazard is the unknown controllability of this product and how it reacts in different environments," she said. "The determination was that that was hazard enough."

Consumers who purchased the kite tube should stop using it immediately and contact SportsStuff at 866-831-5524 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST Monday through Friday to learn how to obtain free replacement products.

E-mail: jdana@desnews.com