Sad but true: The lure of being cast into the air by a speeding floatie was so intense that PopSci almost featured the Wego Kite Tube in our magazine’s What’s New section earlier this spring. We didn’t, because it just seemed too dangerous, but heck, we weren’t the only idiots who thought it looked like a ton of fun. More than 19,000 Kite Tubes were sold this year, and the thing was even named 2006 Sports Product of the Year by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.
But what was everyone thinking? If there were a Darwin Awards for toy manufacturers, these guys would get top honors. The floppy 10-foot diameter discs—brazenly printed with skulls and the slogan “Never kite higher than you’re willing to fall”—were recalled a few weeks ago after causing 39 injuries and two deaths. And we’re not talking Slip ’n’ Slide–caliber injuries. One 29-year-old man broke his neck after falling from a height of 35 feet at 45 miles an hour.
The problem is that the tube provides a means of creating loft (a vertical-pulling mechanism that lifts the front of the disc enough to force air beneath it) but no means of steering once you’ve gotten off the ground. As aviation writer and resident aerodynamics expert Bill Sweetman puts it, “Flight is more than just lift (the bottom of the tube) and thrust (the boat). There is also something essential, which is referred to as control. Without that, you are fish food.” So without further ado, the tasteless feature you’ve been waiting for: The Wego Kite Tube crash video. —Megan Miller