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A public-service warning about safety
Susan H. Ruuska
2223 N. 60th St.
Seattle, WA 98103
Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation
Attn: Eric Friedli
7400 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
June 20, 2003
TWO RELATED INCIDENTS ON KITE HILL IN MAGNUSON PARK ON JUNE 13, 2003
My husband and I fly kites on and near Kite Hill in Magnuson Park a few times a month. We fly dual-line parafoil stunt kites, and we fly standing together. We put a setup stake in the ground, and we stay there as we fly. Our control lines are 75' long to take up minimal flying space.
On June 13th we arrived on the hill around 4 PM. There was a paragliderist at the top of the hill and no other flyers. The wind was out of the south and we set up on the rise near the parking lot. The wind was spotty, sometimes almost nothing and sometimes quite brisk. Our kites are designed to respond to the wind, so at times they were barely moving and sometimes they were really zipping around quickly all over our flying area.
These kites are designed by my husband and we sell them online as a dot.com business. They are completely soft and sparless but can sting someone if hit, and the lines can cut like with other dual-line kites. We are therefore careful where we position ourselves during setup. And we try to educate others about kiting safety, i.e., don't walk into the area where our kites are flying and don't fly other kites too closely.
After about a half hour, more people started arriving at the hill. Since we always fly near our setup stake, it clearly lets others know where they should not be flying. One man with a small son put up a single line kite too close to ours, and one of our kites tangled with his line. My husband talked with the father about kiting safety, and the father and son moved a few feet to be out of range of our kites, and they resumed their flying.
Shortly thereafter, a single-line sky toy started flying right next to us and almost directly above us, and crashed hard beside us a couple of times. We looked behind, and saw that it was being flown by a person sitting inside a car in the parking lot. We were nervous as the sky toy had spars and we didn't want to get hit hard by the end of the spars. It continued to hover and dart near us, including near our heads. When it crashed again near us, my husband grabbed it and put it over our setup stake to assure our safety. The owner came and retrieved it, my husband explained to him how he had to immobilize the kite to prevent it from possibly injuring us, and he went to fly elsewhere.
By this time there were a few more dual-line kite flyers on the hill, but there was plenty of room for all of us to fly safely.
One flyer in particular moved closer and closer to us from our left, and pretty soon his large sparred delta stunt kite was flying deeply into our flying area. As his style of flying indicated that he was an experienced flyer, we wondered why he was crowding us because there was so much other room on the hill. My husband flew his kite to the left so that the flyer could see very clearly how he was dangerously crowding us. Suddenly the wind picked up and our kites started flying fast. My kite and the intruder's kite flew into the same area and collided. A kite line was severed on each kite and I went over to untangle the kites and retrieve mine.
At that time, he started yelling at me. He ran up the hill jerking the two entangled kites as hard as he could. I followed, yelling at him to stop, but he said that we broke his kite line and he was going to do as much damage to my kite as he could. When I caught up with the kites, he jerked them away from me as I bent over to pick them up and dragged them farther up the hill. He did that several times.
Once I finally caught up to the kites and started to untangle them, he exploded and said how much he hated our kites, how much he hated our website, and how he'd watched us for ten years and how we were a menace to other flyers and how we were "Kite Nazis."
"Kite Nazi" is a term used to describe a flyer who aggressively moves toward and intrudes into the flying areas other kites, endangering those kites and lines and possibly the flyers themselves. Something we can't do because we stand and fly near our setup stake.
He said that we "owed" him a set of kite lines, that he was going to start a website to tell the kiting world how awful we are, that he was going to park his truck outside our place of business and prevent people from going in, and that if we come back to the hill he would make life miserable for us until we left and how he would do that every time he saw us.
I admit that I did talk back to him, telling him that he was acting like a juvenile, that we didn't owe him a set of kitelines as both of our lines were cut so we were even, and that if he didn't like our website he didn't have to read it.
Luckily my kite was not damaged, but the lines were terribly tangled. My husband noticed that the flyer, then about 50 feet away, was holding the end of his kite line by its strap handle. And how if the flyer suddenly jerked on his line my fingers could be severely cut as I was trying to untangle things. So as a precaution my husband wrapped the line several times around his wood-dowel handle and held tight. The flyer DID jerk hard a few times, yelling insults the whole time. The flyer finally got tired of waiting for me to untangle the lines, and cut it with his knife to free our kite.
We then packed up our gear. As we left the hill, he invited us back in a threatening tone of voice.
While walking to our car, I noticed that everyone else was gone off the hill. Only the flyer (he refused to give us his name) and his buddy were left. It was then that we realized that his buddy was the one who had darted the sky toy near our heads earlier.
This episode has scared me. But I do intend to continue flying on Kite Hill, and to continue to try to educate others about kiting safety.
Susan H. Ruuska
Comments by the other half of Dan & Sue:
It was scary. Especially this: if I had NOT safety-anchored our end of the flyer's line while Sue was trying to entangle things, when he jerked hard on one of his Spectra control lines he could have sliced her finger(s) to the bone like with a thin-wire garrote.
Something not mentioned in Sue's report. The wind, besides changing speed, was also changing direction. Before the flyer's kite and lines intruded into our space from the west, the wind had briefly shifted to blow from the west. If that had happened during his intrusion, our bodies would have been dangerously within his flight-envelope sector.
Sue had recently turned 60 and suffers from fibromyalgia which is painful and immobilizing. When I saw how he forced Sue to chase the two tangled kites way up the hill as he dragged them, and as she bent over to grasp them how he jerked the kites away from her at the last second (he did that several times) while yelling insults at her, I had to force myself to behave in a civilized manner toward him when I arrived at the scene. Sue is a retired school-district audiologist, and works part time with middle-school and high-school kids in special education. She is a long-time member, and past president, of the Green Lake Community Center Advisory Council for the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation.
It happened late on Friday. As soon as the Magnuson Park office opened on Monday, Sue called to ask what to do. Besides advising her to file a written report, they instructed her to immediately phone Magnuson Park Security if it ever happens again. They also said that we have every right to call the police.
The written response from the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation instructed us to immediately call 911 if it ever happens again.
As we left the hill, the flyer threatened to use his stunt kite as a weapon -- to possibly damage our property or to possibly injure us -- if we ever show up at Kite Hill again. If he tries to carry out his threat, we will immediately call the police and press criminal charges.
Similar harassment from the same clique began right after we received our first WindDance shipment in early 1997, before we discovered the nature of the "kite culture" and began to warn flyers and the public about it on this website. I'll never forget one particular Kite Hill incident: shortly after we started to fly, a team of flyers in the same clique crowded in from behind and closely buzzed us at head level with their fast-flying 8-ft delta kites. After a while, one of the flyers in a loud voice cell-phoned someone and asked how long they had to keep doing it.
Besides against us, similar aggressive, intimidating, and dangerous kite-culture behavior has been directed against other flyers on Kite Hill. As well as during kite festivals on Washington State ocean beaches: CLICK HERE.
Our crimes? We created an exciting new dual-line kiting choice, "REAL kite flying." We compare it to the other dual-line kiting choice, "kite-culture flying." We made other worthy contributions to the sport. We enjoy and promote fun like this: CLICK HERE.
The day after the incident, I began to prepare a concise "Kiting Safety" flyer and posted it on this website on Jun-15: CLICK HERE. We'll use it to help educate about safety. We encourage all other flyers to educate about safety, too. To learn more about safety, CLICK HERE.
Epilog July-2003. Magnuson Park is a glorious place to WindDance! A roving Seattle Times photographer saw the pure fun we were having, and we appeared in the next morning's edition (July-9-2003)!
Epilog June-2004. We received this email from a Seattle-area customer: ". . . I recall reading on your website about an incident you experienced at Magnuson's kite hill last June. [We] were flying there Fri the 18th and were aggressively crowded by some of the [same] gang. . . . They didn't start crowding us until . . . [my wife] put up her WindDance 2. These were all very experienced flyers . . . One of the most frustrating nights on the hill ever. . . . "
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