Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS -- A Nebraska company voluntarily recalled 19,000 inflatable kite tubes that go airborne when towed by a boat after two people were killed and several riders were injured, including at least five Minnesotans.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asked consumers to stop using kite tubes, which are sold for $500 to $600 by Sportsstuff Inc. The recall covers all the kite tubes sold by the company, the commission said.

A Milwaukee man died while using the kite in northern Wisconsin on Little St. Germain Lake in Vilas County and two other deaths occurred in Texas and southwestern Ontario.

The recall was announced last week after 39 national accident reports detailed riders suffered injuries such as a broken neck, punctured lung, cracked ribs, a concussion and other chest, back and facial injuries.

"We don't know what caused the accidents," said Michael Beckelman, a company attorney, adding that the company is cooperating with the investigation to find out what action is necessary.

Although it's not clear how many were sold in Minnesota, 19-year-old Travis Kladivo of Tower was one of the Minnesotans injured, suffering a ruptured aorta and two collapsed lungs.


Kladivo had ridden the kite tube many times before and knew the danger of trusting his body to the 10-foot-wide device being pulled by a boat traveling up to 30 miles per hour.

"The feeling you get on a tube kite is like flying in a saucer," Kladivo said. "It's insane, and that's when it's under control."

When he was hurt, Kladivo was 10 to 15 feet in the air when a gust of wind swept beneath his kite tube, shaking the inflated saucer, lifting it another 10 feet into the air.

"You're flying blind," Kladivo said. "There's no way to control it. And this time, I went one way and the tube went the other."

The sound of Kladivo crashing against the water on June 19 was louder than a rifle shot, said Randy Kladivo, Travis' father.

Kladivo, a junior at Bemidji State University, was told it took four units of blood to keep him alive while being transported from St. Cloud Hospital to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Surgeons told his family that his heart might've stopped momentarily when he hit the water, long enough for a clot to slow the flow of blood through the ruptured aorta.

Another rider, 40-year-old Kevin Eckhoff from New London was knocked out after being slammed from 15 feet in the air into the water.


"It happened so fast," he said. "There was no way I could get off."

Eckhoff suffered a perforated eardrum and a separated shoulder. He said soreness in his neck still keeps him from turning his head.

"I've done extreme stuff before but I knew right away that this is dangerous," he said.

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