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Tragic death of Vietnam kid caught in huge kite recalled in detail (video)

Tragic death of Vietnam kid caught in huge kite recalled in detail (video)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 14:06 GMT+7

The leader of a kite club, whose kite snagged a little boy’s legs and then caused him to drop to his death on Sunday, said the accident was very rare, while the tragic story has triggered an alarm about safety procedures involved in kite flying.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

The sudden death of Van Minh Dat, 5, in the accident overwhelmed his parents, relatives, neighbors, and witnesses who felt powerless to come to his rescue.

At about 4:00 pm on March 15, a huge red kite that was about to be flown on a pilot basis by the Saigon Kite Club in preparation for a kite festival to be held in Vung Tau, a seaside city about 100km from Ho Chi Minh City, dropped to where the little boy, his pregnant mother, and grandmother were sitting in the Dong Dieu area in Ho Chi Minh City’s outlying district of Hoc Mon.

On that fateful day, the little boy insisted that his mother, aunt, and grandmother take him to the site, where they sell beverages to kite fliers and watchers.

Mai – Dat’s maternal grandmother – recalled in tears that the huge kite, the largest she has ever seen in her life, with a wingspan 18 meters wide, had risen and fallen several times before the accident happened.

It then slumped down right where she and Dat were sitting, knocking some beverage bottles to the ground.


“Dat was sitting only about one meter from me then. I bent down to pick the bottles up, and was scared out of my wits when I turned around and saw Dat being pulled up really fast by the kite,” she added, wiping away her tears.   The boy’s legs had somehow accidentally become tied around strings on the kite’s wing.

Mai and Dat’s mother, Van Thi Thanh Thuy, 27, who is seven months pregnant, dashed in vain to cushion the boy from the imminent fall.

The kite, carrying the boy along, was around 50 meters away from where Dat was originally sitting and reached a height of 20 meters.

The kite fliers said they were holding the kite’s strings dozens of meters away.

They noted it was quite difficult to get the huge kite flying and descending immediately.

“We were stupefied at the moment of the accident, and ran as fast we could in the hope of acting as a bumper for the little boy’s imminent fall, but the kite was speeding quickly in the strong winds,” Ha, of Saigon Kite Club member, said.

When the kite reached a height of about 20 meters, the strings unwound from Dat’s legs, causing him to free fall to the ground.

The little boy was rushed to a nearby hospital, but did not make it.

Rare accident

Do Van Luu, head of the Saigon Kite Club, said the kite had been flown and won a prize at a kite festival previously.

He added this had been the first such incident since his club was founded.

“The entire accident happened in a mere 20 seconds. Despite my sprinting efforts, Dat fell to the ground, less than one meter from where I was. If he had dropped at a slightly slower speed, he would have survived,” Luu added.

Cánh đồng diều ở thời điểm xảy ra tai nạn tập trung nhiều người - Ảnh: Hải Hiếu

The Dong Dieu kite flying area in Hoc Mon District, Ho Chi Minh City is pictured around the time of the tragic accident. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The club head stressed he and his team had properly adopted safety procedures.

Right after the kite landed where Dat and his grandmother were sitting, his team was about to send it flying again.

Luu said he had yet to shout the “start” signal when the kite was picked up by the strong winds, taking Dat along with it.

Witnesses tried to grasp the kite’s tail but it snapped, and the kite began soaring.

“It is a really bizarre coincidence, as Dat inadvertently became the kite’s new tail so that it regained balance and momentum to soar. Theoretically speaking, kites lose balance and cannot fly if their tails fall off,” Luu explained.

Dat’s parents and grandmother are poor. The extended family of 18 members crams into a 30m² house in Hoc Mon District.

Luu said his club has presented Dat’s family with a total of VND26.6 million (US$1,240) for his hospital fees and funeral.

Kite owners didn’t ask for permission

Dang Quang Sang, office chief and spokesperson of the Hoc Mon District People’s Committee, said people have flown their kites of various colors and sizes in Dong Dieu for the past four or five years.

“This was the first time that such a large kite had been flown here. But the kite fliers did not seek our prior consent,” he stressed.

The district’s people’s committee has imposed a strict ban on flying large kites in the area where the tragic accident occurred.

Con diều cuốn bé trai được một người dân chụp lại lúc đưa xuống - Ảnh: N.V.H

This picture showing a huge red kite, in which Van Minh Dat's legs were entangled, was taken by a witness when it was pulled down following the accident on March 15, 2015. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Huynh Cong Binh, CEO of Tieng Song Co., a local company which offers ecological tours, said kites with areas of dozens of square meters have strong pull power in strong winds.

Binh was also vice head of the 2014 Ho Chi Minh City Artistic Kite Flying Competition’s organizing board.

It takes two or three pilots when the kite is in the air, and around 10 people to stretch the kite on the ground before sending it up.

“Even adults can be entangled and carried along by such large kites. Procedures to ensure safety for fliers themselves and spectators, especially children, thus cannot be overlooked,” Binh noted.

He pointed out that many local kite clubs operate haphazardly without seeking permission from competent agencies.

An official with the city’s Department of Culture and Sports expressed concern that mindless fliers even fly their kites in areas beneath high-voltage electricity currents, and flyovers, which poses grave danger to the electricity grid, passers-by, and fliers themselves.

He added the local governments are supposed to supervise kite flying activities.

The culture department grants permits and is responsible for safety issues only in times of kite flying festivals or competitions.

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