After losing control of his kite and falling about 18m head-first into the rough Big Bay waters, during the Red Bull King of the Air Competition in February, UK professional kitesurfer Lewis Crathern is grateful to be alive.
Mr Crathern was knocked unconscious after plummeting from his kite into the water.
Two quick-thinking kitesurfers, Andries Fourie from South Africa and Reno Romeu of Brazil, pulled him to the surface and kept his head above water so he wouldn’t drown.
“The whole experience was surreal; I don’t recall anything about the accident, and six days later, I woke up in Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, where I had been put under induced partial coma so that I could be ventilated,” said Mr Crathern.
“My parents were there when I woke up. They were deeply concerned about my condition and flew out from the UK to see me.”
Blaauwberg Netcare Hospital’s Dr Kim Barnard said Mr Crathern was one of two near drowning accidents admitted from the competition within hours of each other. His injuries were more serious, as he had aspirated a lot of water and he needed to be put on a ventilator.
“Mr Crathern was suffering from severe hypoxia, meaning the oxygen levels in his blood were extremely low. This can potentially result in multiple organs becoming damaged, including the heart and brain,” said Dr Barnard.
The kitesurfer was on the ventilator in intensive care for six days.
“We are delighted with the progress he has made and expect him to be well enough to fly home later this month,” said Dr Barnard.
Mr Crathern’s fall happened after he attempted to perform a kite surfing manoeuvre called the “megaloop”.
But his kite stalled and smashed into the surf and Mr Crathern was knocked unconscious.
The three-times British kitesurfing champion said the accident was partly due to bad fortune, as well as “a little pilot error”.
“I owe my life to the two kitesurfers, the medics who were on the beach, as well as Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, where I received superb medical care. I am so grateful to them all,” he said.
“Besides experiencing some tiredness, I am now feeling better, but there is still a lot of rehabilitation that I need to go through before I am 100 percent fit again. I have to lay off kite surfing for at least six weeks.”
Despite facing a near-death experience, Mr Crathern hasn’t lost his love for Cape Town.
“I come to Cape Town for three months of every year to kitesurf here. I love the city; it has become my second home.”