Lewis Crathern: "I don't recall anything about the accident"

March 3, 2016 | Kiteboarding
Lewis Crathern: an horrific wipeout put him in induced coma | Photo: Red Bull

Lewis Crathern is lucky to be alive. After wiping out at the 2016 Red Bull King of the Air, the British kitesurfer reveals how he nearly drowned and dove into an induced coma. Now he's back, ready for new adventures.

The 30-year-old kiteboarder owes his life to Reno Romeu and Andries Fourie. They were his opponents in a spectacular windy heat taking place at Cape Town's Big Bay. When Crathern free fell 20 meters (65 feet) and crashed into the water, he immediately blacked out.

"The accident was partly just some bad fortune as well as a little pilot error. I lost control and hit my head hard when I landed. 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," said Lewis.

"The whole experience was surreal; I don't recall anything about the accident, and woke up six days later in Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, where I had been put under induced partial coma so that I could be ventilated. My parents were there when I woke up. They were deeply concerned about my condition and flew out from the UK to see me."

The rider from Worthing, West Sussex, says he is feeling better, but he will need a lot of rehabilitation before getting back to the water. Crathern is still in South Africa because doctors consider he should fly back to the UK before March 15th.

"When Mr Crathern arrived at our emergency department, he was suffering from severe hypoxia as a result of the water he aspirated into his lungs, meaning the oxygen levels in his blood were extremely low," explains Kim Barnard, the doctor who followed and treated Lewis, alongside Brett Lesley, Karishma Rama and the nursing team.

"This can potentially result in multiple organs becoming damaged, including the heart and brain. The salty water that he inhaled could also have potentially caused severe damage to his lung tissue and permanent damage to the lungs."

"We mechanically ventilated Mr Crathern for six days in our intensive care unit where he was monitored continuously, and to date, he has not suffered any complications. He made a remarkable recovery and, after a period of rehabilitation, was discharged from hospital on February 19th and came for a follow-up appointment on March 3rd," concluded Barnard.