It might come as no surprise, but kites are the oldest known heavier-than-air objects to be flown in the skies above. Throughout the world and among different cultures, kites have taken on a variety of meanings. Kites were first popularized in China 3,000 years ago. Other places in the world then caught on to how fun kites were to fly.
In addition to entertainment, kites have also been utilized to distribute propaganda, emit radio signals, ward off supernatural forces, and spy on others. Today, most people fly kites for pleasure and fun.
What you might not know is that in the wrong hands, kites are extremely dangerous. Data reveals that dozens of individuals are injured each year, some even killed by kites. One festival alone that occurred in India in January 2023 saw three childrenand another 176 injured.
What follows are 10 of the most noteworthy times that people were killed when or by flying kites.
10 An Indian Boy Electrocuted
In Sangareddy, India, on January 12, 2023, a boy and his friends climbed on top of a roof to fly kites. The roof belonged to the rented house where one of the boys lived. Unfortunately, one of the boys flew his kite too close and touched a power line.
This led the boy to incur severe burns. The boy then made the unwise mistake of attempting to remove the kite. He later passed away at a nearby medical center. The boy is reported to have received burns on over 90 percent of his body, while the other two incurred 30 percent burns to their bodies.
India’s transmission voltage is 765 kV AC, the highest voltage power lines can carry and the equivalent of 115,000 volts. Shocks above 2,700 volts are often fatal, while shocks above 11,000 volts are usually fatal. However, it is the amount of current (the amperes) more so than the voltage that determines the outcome.
9 Man Falls to Death Flying Kite
In 2021, a 44-year-old man had an unfortunate experience flying a kite. The man was flying kites with his neighbors during a Sankranti celebration in Hyderabad, India, when he fell at least four stories. The mishap occurred when the man neared the edge of the building’s terrace and lost his balance. It is believed he was not aware that he was so close to the edge.
Unfortunately, the man fell onto the metal gate surrounding the building, dying on the scene before he could be transported to the hospital. Following the accident, the police commissioner requested that people stop flying kites from elevated places. The commissioner also requested that parents instruct children not to run into dangerous areas like busy roads while trying to gather kites.
For context, six stories range from 60 to 90 feet (18.3 to 27.4 meters) tall. While people flying kites often survive falls from 20 to 25 feet (6.1 to 7.6 meters), the greater the height after that, the more likely a fatality is to occur. One study determined that falls from eight stories (98 feet or 29.9 meters) are almost always deadly.
8 Man Electrocuted by Kite String
India’s National Green Tribunal in July 2017 placed a complete prohibition on manja, a non-biodegradable kite string material made of nylon or other synthetics that prove harmful to animals, birds, and humans.
Two months later, a 33-year-old man who resided in eastern India failed to heed this regulation. The man was flying a kite from the terrace of his home when it became entangled in high-tension wire. The manja had been partially made with glass and metal dust and proved to be a good conductor when it became caught up in a 33,000-volt power line. The late man’s son, who was holding the string, experienced shock and was thrown immediately backward.
The late man, who owned a stationery shop owner, was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries. The man’s daughter, nephew, and niece were also injured while attempting to move the man’s hand away from the kite string.
7 Boy Dies after Fall from Giant Kite
A five-year-old boy in Vietnam passed away in 2015 after becoming caught in the ropes belonging to a giant kite. The boy was then pulled into the air before falling 65 feet (20 meters) to the ground. Video recording captures the terrifying moment, where onlookers could only watch in terror. The kite took off into the air so fast that no one could save him. The boy was freed when several of the kite strings snapped. After being taken to the hospital, the boy was pronounced dead.
The boy wandered off from his mother while members of the Saigon Kite Club tried to launch the large kite, which contained a replica of the Vietnamese flag and was reported to have been almost 50 feet (15 meters) wide. A woman reported that the kite fell to the ground several times before it was launched by the wind. When taking off, the kite knocked down a table and a few chairs near the booth where the boy’s mother was working. The boy is believed to have come close to the kite to retrieve soft drink bottles when he became caught up in the kite strings.
6 Giant Japanese Kite Kills One
In 2015, a crowd in Higashiomi, Japan, watched as a more than 1,000-pound (453-kilogram) kite fell from the sky and wounded four individuals. One of the men injured by the falling kite died from his injuries. Spectators claimed that the kite showed instability within minutes of being airborne. One commentator said that the kite tilted to the side and then came crashing to the ground while spectators hurried to find a safe place.
On the day the mishap occurred, a weather report was issued for a strong wind warning. Three others were injured in the incident, including two elderly men and a young boy.
The annual Higashiomi Giant Kite Festival involves large kites made from bamboo and paper. To make matters even more surprising, this marked the second deadly accident involving a giant kite that occurred in Japan in a ten-week period.
5 Boy Dies after Falling into Gutter While Flying Kite
In 2023, a boy in Cuttack, India, wandered out of his house without telling anyone. While flying his kite, the child fell into an open drain in the Bidanasi part of town and died.
At the time the boy left the house, his family was sitting around watching television. Due to their failure to stop the boy from falling into the drain, the Cuttack Municipal Corporation officials later blamed the family for the boy’s death. Construction work on the drain had stopped two months earlier, but authorities left the drain open at several points. If the Municipal Corporation had covered the drain with concrete slabs, the accident would never have occurred.
This was not the only time that someone was harmed by falling into an open drain that month. A few weeks earlier, a South Korean journalist fell into an open drain in Bhubaneswar, India, while enjoying a cup of tea at a roadside stall.
4 Mumbai Boy’s Throat Slit
Also in 2023, a boy in Mumbai, India, was taking in the sights from his family’s sunroof while the vehicle traveled down the Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway to his family’s vacation home. Also traveling in the vehicle were the boy’s mother, father, sister, and grandparents. Suddenly, the boy was injured when a kite string became wrapped around his neck.
At the time of the accident, the vehicle was traveling at a moderate speed and very close to the family’s destination. The boy was promptly taken to the hospital with profuse bleeding. The boy’s mother, a doctor, and another hospital physician tried to put pressure on the wound. Still, the boy passed away from his injuries. The kite string that took the boy’s life was composed of nylon.
What the boy did not know was that same day, very close to him, a girl had lost her life in the same way while also looking out of a sunroof.
3 11 Killed at Pakistan Kite Festival
Eleven people were killed and over 100 injured at an annual spring festival in eastern Pakistan. The festival is routinely celebrated with many bright kites. Besides stray celebratory bullets, other people were killed by kite strings, electrocution caused by kites, and falling off rooftops while flying kites.
Many kite flyers in Pakistan attempt to use wire or other sharp kite strings made from ground glass to try to cut rival kite strings or harm other kite flyers. This can lead to substantial injuries and deaths for birds, people, and other animals, though.
Pakistani police arrested more than 700 people for using dangerous kite strings or firing weapons during the festival. Law enforcement also seized 282 illegally held weapons. In 2006, Pakistani authorities even placed a temporary ban on kite flying following a series of festival deaths. As a result of the ban, the police arrested over 1,000 people for selling or making harmful kite strings. Following these 11 fatalities, the ban was understandably re-imposed
2 Man Riding Motorbike Killed by Kite String
At the beginning of 2023, a man in Surat, India, riding a motorbike was killed when a stray kite string slit his neck. At the time of the mishap, the man was on his way home after work at a power loom factory at a diamond industrial estate.
Police reported that the man incurred substantial injuries to his throat and neck but managed to safely stop his bike. The motorcyclist was taken to a nearby hospital but later pronounced dead. The mishap occurred shortly before India’s Uttaryan kite festival.
Uttaryan (or Makar Sankranti) is known as the harvest festival. During this time, the crowd yells “Kai Po Che” to flying kites. The festival marks the end of winter and the start of longer days and honors the Hindu epic, Mahabharata.
1 English Man Killed Flying a Stunt Kite
In 2011, A 20-year-old man in Bedfordshire, England’s Dunstable Downs, fell 50 feet (15 meters) after strong gust of wind caught his kite and took the man with it. While the man had four years of “stunt kite” flying experience, he had never worn safety gear. While he was attached to the kite, the man was thrown 7 feet (2.1 meters) forward, 40 feet (12 meters) into the air, ascended another 20 feet (6 meters), and finally struck the ground.
Due to the fall, the man broke his arm, legs, and pelvis. He is also believed to have experienced a heart attack and a brain injury. When ambulance workers arrived at the scene, they found the man unconscious and not breathing. The man was later pronounced dead.
Kite flying associations often suggest the highest degree of caution when flying stuntkites due to the substantial pull, lift, and speed. Additionally, UK laws prohibit flying kites greater than 197 feet (60 meters) above the ground without the Civil Aviation Authority’s permission. These safety precautions, however, did not stop the man.