Visitor killed kite-surfing in East End

| 28/12/2018 | 45 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): Thomas Downer (63), who was visiting the Cayman Islands from the United States, was killed in East End yesterday in a kite-surfing accident in which he was swept to shore and into a beachfront building by the wind. At around 1:00pm on Thursday, the 911 Communication Centre dispatched police and other emergency personnel to a location off Austin Connolly Drive, where they discovered that the visitor had hit the building and sustained critical injuries to his body.

He was taken to the hospital for treatment but later succumbed to his injuries.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said Downer’s family had been notified, as they extended condolences to his friends and family.

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Comments (45)

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  1. Wind Knot Girl says:

    The kitesurfing outfit(s) that have operated (and/or continue to operate) in East End are run by highly responsible, trained professionals. I know this because I’ve been trained by them. I am a Caymanian. And, I am a woman. I have never once been placed in an unsafe situation during the course of my training, ever. Stop casting blame on those not responsible. You are not helping. Particularly those of you who have probably never taken a kite surfing lesson in your life, much less held a kite. When you choose to go out kiting on your own, you should only do so when you have had adequate training and know how and where to launch your kite, gage wind speed and general weather conditions, have adequate back-up (i.e. a buddy or buddies in the water to assist) and be able to self rescue etc. My sincere condolences to the family of Thomas Downer. I am so sorry this man’s life was taken. It is indeed a tragedy.

  2. Eric says:

    I was kiting on the East End at the time of Tom’s death and would like to add some clarity as to what happened.

    Tom was attempting to kite from Colliers Public Beach with his own equipment. Tom was standing directly upwind with his lines with a friend holding his kite directly downwind. On his friend’s release, the kite shot up, took him off his feet and carried him downwind into a masonry public restroom. He died in hospital two days later from the impact injuries.

    After Tom’s accident his traveling friends, which I met, went to the private beach of White Sands Watersports, a half mile east of Colliers, to get training on how to safely launch a kite. The lead instructor, who was working with my teenage son, related the details of the accident to me.

    The cause of the accident was completely operator error. It had nothing to do with conditions which were not extreme for kiting (I was on my 12m at the time). A kite should always be launched on the side of the wind window, never, ever, directly downwind. The method Tom attempted (and the fact that his friends sought basic launch training after the accident) shows me Tom and his friends had no idea what they were doing. They bought kite gear and attempted to operate it without proper training. Kiting, scuba diving, flying an airplane, skydiving, driving and many other endeavors have some risk, but require proper training and practice under supervision before one should attempt them independently.

    Condolences to Tom’s friends and family.

    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely wrong! He passed away that day, may he RIP
      What in your post now besides being second, third or more-hand is accurate?
      Details meant to deceive? Like the statment posted on the Caymanian Times?
      p.s. It was very windy that day. And gusty.

    • Anonymous says:

      5:45 Tom’s friend told the EMTs and those of us standing there that he did not see, he had his back turned, that he gave him CPR and revived him just before the EMTs arrived.
      You noticed all these details whilst out on the water Kiteboarding on that windy and gusty day, not paying attention to what you were doing? I think not. It was perfect weather for Kiteboarding and Windsurfing, eh?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Tom was family. He loved everything about watersports since he was a kid. He died doing what he loved. The fact that people are arguing back and forth about whose fault it was or whether rules should be enforced…isn’t going to bring him back. How about we let him rest in peace and everyone just stop arguing with each other?

  4. Michelle says:

    I would just like to say as a 24 years long visitor, who always enjoys snorkeling, and going out on the water, and my kids have Kite-surfed on 7 Mile Beach, I think it is short-sighted of those who just say, “Well, all things come with a risk.” As I know from reading the 2 Cayman news websites that I do, the winds were very high recently. Do you not think that it makes sense that when the winds are extremely high, that certain leisure activities do not take place? Like when the wind is super high, one knows not to have a bonfire outdoors. We do not just say, “Oh well, they knew there was a risk, and they built a bonfire and the forest burned down.” In the US, you would be prohibited from even having the bonfire, for the safety of ALL involved, some of whom may not understand the risk. If you want to say, “Oh well, he knew the risk, AND THE FOLKS SELLING THE ACTIVITY HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY to stop someone who MAY NOT UNDERSTAND the risk from taking part, well then I would hope that many, many people here in the US will get on social media and tell EVERYONE POSSIBLE THAT IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS THEY HAVE NO REGARD FOR KEEPING THE PUBLIC SAFE, and will do anything for a dollar. I don’t know how anyone can say that regulating Kite-surfing to the extent that you only say, “Kite-surfing MAY NOT take place when the wind speed is higher than “X”, I don’t know how that can be a bad thing.

    • Anonymous says:

      What??!? I think you are confused judging by this post. Are you confusing kite-surfing with parasailing?

      Who is SELLING THE ACTIVITY, as you need to put in caps? NOBODY. This was an American tourist, who brought his own equipment, and participated in this sports under his own responsibility. Not a single kite-surfing company had any involvement in this accident.

      If you want to talk about regulations in the USA vs. Cayman, then you need to explain why there are numerous kite-surfing locations in the USA (Maui, Hatteras, Cape Cod, Columbia River Gorge) that encourage kite-surfing in winds that are routinely 30% stronger than the winds that were experienced in Cayman on the fateful day.

      You can go on social media all you like, but I think you need to get your facts straight before you do. It is clear that you have no idea what you are talking about regarding this tragic event

    • Mike says:

      I think that you are ridiculous to blame the Cayman Govt. for what happened. Where do you draw the line in protecting people from their own adventures? There is a culture in today’s world that wants to blame govts. for everything, and many of us complain of being over regulated by the. What the heck do you want? I do not expect any govt to tell when I may or may not kite surf as I am a grown man who should know when it is unsafe or otherwise. I am sorry that this man lost his life enjoying his sport, and may he R.I.P.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wind speeds seem to have NOTHING to do with this accident, but it looks like the rider did NOT now how to properly launch a kite and did so straight downwind. To say that wind SPEEDS need to be a guide for what to ride is stupid. It would be like saying that race cars should no go over 200mph. Riders with a lot of experience can safely ride in winds well over 40+ mph and into the 50’s. I do and have on water and snow and ice. There are greater risks with higher speeds, but experience is that makes it fun. Please don’t blame conditions when the rider didn’t have proper training and knowledge to fly a kite. Who here would pack their own parachute without any knowledge? Talking about this is in no way DISRESPECTING the rider (RIP) and person who died, but to help prevent others from buying used gear and giving it a go without proper training. Trying to regulate wind speeds makes ZERO sense at all.
      It’s sad to hear of anyone loosing her life due to this great sport. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Any adventure sport carries risk and im sure any one participating in these sports knows and understands those risks. Accidents happen unfortunately. We have seen people die from snorkeling which carries minimum risk but again accidents happen. RIP Tom and condolences to his family and Friends.

  6. Tom says:

    Why given bad comment? It was his freedom to enjoy what he loved. It is a freak accident. Please don’t make comment about making rules or blaming tourists. What about locals who are dangerous driving on road? Let make more rules and banned dangerous drivers! All sports either water or land based are dangerous…

  7. Anonymous says:

    You all are calling for stricter rules as if that is remotely the issue. The truth is that if you partake in dangerous activities, you run the risk of getting hurt. That’s life, and it’s gone in a blink of an eye. I’m sure that this guy knew the risks and kudos to him for living an adventurous life! The last thing we need are more government regulations on ANYTHING, especially taking away people’s freedom to a good time.

  8. Gray Matter says:

    Signs now needed to be put in place with the Safe wind speed limit.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is so very sad. It is time for Cayman to have strict rules and regulations in place for anyone but in particular our visitors who know nothing about the sea and the dangers thereon.

  10. Anonymous says:

    we all going…rip sir

  11. Anonymous says:

    Colliers Public Beach in EE was where. Sad.
    Condolences to his loved ones.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am saddened to hear of his passing, Condolences to his family and friends.
    He was responsive and helped to move himself onto the stretcher, his friend had given him CPR just before the EMTs arrived.
    Health City is far closer than GT Hospital, why was he not taken there?

    • Anonymous says:

      8:15 Health City does not allow these emergency patients to be brought to them.
      Health City is a Compound.

      • Anonymous says:

        Health City just opened a trauma centre. It is stupid policy that prevented the ambulance from going there. Time to focus policy on saving lives, not egos.
        One can’t help but wonder, “what if”. Very sad, deepest sympathies to his loved ones.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Sad to hear this. It’s a dangerous sport and you must take lessons to know how to react quickly if something happens. Not saying this man didn’t, just of anyone out there wants to learn, please spend the money.

    • Ron Ebanks says:

      My regards to the family, and what would we say about this tragedy to about another one of our visitors /tourist.
      Remember I has been saying for a long time that there’s a lot of lack for RESPONSIBILITY, EXPERIENCE , and NEGLIGENCE in the tourism .

    • Anonymous says:

      Tom was the safest person ever. He taught lifeguarding certifications to the local highschool students, and went to Hawaii every winter to renew his Scuba diving instructor certification. This is so horrifying to everyone who knows him.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sad to hear but he was kiting and that is why I pointed out what safety precautions are needed to be known before doing so. I can scuba but not learn to kite from knowing that. I’ve taken lessons for both.

      • Anonymous says:

        12:20 So sorry about Tom. I am haunted by his passing…seeing him reponsive and helping himself onto the stretcher we all thought he would have been okay, perhaps cracked or broke a rib. I heard the impact though.

        • Anonymous says:

          I am a close friend to Tom and I appreciate you commenting about the tragedy. I have been having nightmares about how this horrific event occurred replaying possible scenarios. We are all hoping he was not in severe pain in his final moments, possibly his body was in shock and internal injuries took him from us soon after the medical professionals arrived. We pray that he is at peace now and looking over all of us.
          I hope that this does not continue to haunt you, he wouldn’t want that.

      • Anonymous says:

        A history consistent with enjoying risk taking pursuits. If one rolls the dice often enough…

      • Ron Ebanks says:

        So why didn’t he Tom know about all safety concerns and precautions before he did that .

  14. Anonymous says:

    That sport has always scared me.. The fear of hanging myself in one of the kite strings has kept me away. RIP Sir.

  15. Chadd Bush says:

    Why run that kind of business in this kind of weather. Companies like that need tighter regulations. Indicating minimum and maximum weather conditions in which the kite surfing etc. can be done in. To setup this law you want to look at other Caribbean islands who have these kind of businesses over long periods of time. Then use their laws as a basis for regulations and or laws to be set for Kite Surfing, Hand Gliding, bungy jumping, watersports, etc. If for no other reason than to ensure that more tourists don’t get killed.

    • Anonymous says:

      2:23 He was launching his Kite-sail Board from Colliers Public Beach in EE.
      It could have been with his own equipment or from the vendor Water Sports Company operating from there.

    • Anonymous says:

      2:23 That kind of weather is Kite Sailing and Windsurfing weather.
      A freak gust of wind grabbed his sail as he was lauching and launched him backwards into the only building at Colliers Public Beach EE, the Restrooms building.
      A freak accident, shocking and sad. I hope he was not in pain. Condolences to his loved ones.

    • Anonymous says:

      My condolences to the family.
      From what I understand this had nothing to do with any local run business. He had borrowed some kite equipment from another tourist friend. Regulartions on local business would have done nothing to prevent this tragedy.

    • Mike says:

      What “business” Chad Bush?

  16. Kman says:

    So sad and thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. A freak accident yet stricter rules need to be put in place regarding adventure sports.

    • Anonymous says:

      2:17 Adventure Sports businesses perhaps should not be run out of Colliers Beach with the building close to the shore there.

      • Anonymous says:

        But that would cost money and costing money loses votes.

      • Anonymous says:

        There are no adventure sports businesses running off of Colliers Public Beach. There never has been. This beach is used by the public, including tourist, as it was meant to be used.

        Making this comment indicates that you have no idea what you are talking about.

        • Anonymous says:

          4:18 You, have no idea what you are talking about. There is a Watersports business run from Colliers Beach.

    • Anonymous says:

      And who do you propose to enforces these rules? The police cannot even control the driving rules and now you want somebody to control private people doing watersports

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