Kite surfer seriously injured in freak accident on Ocean Beach

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- A freak accident at San Francisco's Ocean Beach Friday afternoon is giving people pause after a kite surfer was apparently dragged by a strong gust of wind into oncoming traffic on the Great Highway.

Ocean Beach is often windy and cold, but it's not often where the sand hits you in the face and you can taste it in your mouth.

Ocean Beach is enticing yet often volatile with its strong winds and currents. And no more so than Friday afternoon.

"Today is actually right on the upper limit of what's safe to ride, so I'm using a really small kite today," said Alex Lowe , a kite surfer from Alameda

It's an exhilarating sport. But around 3:15 p.m., police say a kite surfer preparing his gear at the waterline suddenly found himself being pulled by his kite away from the ocean.
He was dragged across the parking lot and then onto the Great Highway,right into the path of a silver Toyota SUV going south.
"Oh my god, It's terrible! That's terrible," said Heena Patel, when she heard about the accident.

The kite surfer ended up between the SUV and the concrete median barrier. The driver reportedly told officers he saw the kite before he saw the surfer.

Police say the man suffered life-threatening head injuries and was transported to SF General.
"I definitely thought about it. I took extra care to make sure everything was set up correctly," said Alex Lowe who says he kite surfs at Ocean Beach often.

Lowe showed KTVU the emergency eject mechanism that's on the kite surfing gear.

"The kite's up like this. If something crazy were to happen, it'll release. The kite will flag out and have no power and can't drag you," said Lowe.

But Lowe says when the lines cross, it can create a dangerous scenario that he's experienced himself.

"If the line somehow crosses from one side to the other, the kite does an uncontrolled loop where it's just spinning like this -- just maximum power over and over -- and drag you across the beach. Maybe he was flailing and couldn't get to his eject," said Lowe.

As for other beach visitors, the unusually strong winds had them leaving soon after they arrived.

"Like a tornado, kind of. I was like, whoa! The moment I stepped out of the car," said Heena Patel who had planned to spend a few hours at the beach but changed her mind.

Kite surfers say to be safe, the stronger the winds means the smaller the kite should be.

Police have not yet released the identity of the kite surfer in Friday's accident.