updated 10/18/2004 7:15:53 AM ET 2004-10-18T11:15:53

A 31-year-old winemaker who came to New Zealand from the United States became the country’s first kite surfing fatality over the weekend, police said Monday.

Douglas Wiser, from Geneva, N.Y., was killed Saturday after a strong wind gust hit his kite, dragging him 100 yards from the sea and slamming him into a recreational vehicle.

Witnesses said Wiser was about to release his kite harness when the wind suddenly dragged him across a beach and smashed him through the limbs of a tree at Te Awanga, a small settlement on North Island’s east coast.

Locals suggested Wiser, an experienced kite surfer, may not have had time to use a safety button which releases the kite in critical situations.

The death was the first kite surfing fatality in New Zealand. Last year a man was seriously injured in a similar accident on South Island.

Te Awanga is located near the city of Hastings in the Hawke’s Bay wine growing area, about 200 miles northeast of the capital, Wellington.

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