Japanese news footage showed the giant toy plummeting into a crowd. A local weather observatory had issued a strong wind warning around the time of the incident, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
Kayaki, 29, was visiting Higashiomi from her home town half an hour away. She said the kite showed signs of instability about five minutes into its flight.
“She said the kite appeared to tilt to the side and then it suddenly crashed to the ground as frightened spectators cried out and scrambled to get out of the way,” Asahi Shimbun reported. “Most of them didn’t make it.”
The three others injured in the accident included two men, ages 78 and 62, and a 7-year-old boy. Flying the huge kite is an annual tradition in Higashiomi. It measures 43 feet by 39 feet — nearly the size of half a basketball court — and is made of nearly a ton of bamboo and paper.
Incredibly, this is the second deadly accident involving a giant kite in the past 10 weeks. On March 15, a similar festival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, also ended in tragedy when 5-year-old Van Minh Dat’s legs became tangled in the ropes of a giant kite. Again, amateur video captured the horrific scene as Dat was carried up into the air, only to become untangled and plunge 65 feet to his death.
In Japan, officials have promised an investigation into whether there was negligence by those flying the kite, AFP reported.
“Safety measures were insufficient,” said Masakiyo Ogura, mayor of the city and chairman of the festival’s organizing committee. “I want to sincerely apologize to visitors and our residents.”
Giant kite festivals are common in Japan, according to AFP. In 2004, eight people were injured when an even larger kite smashed into a crowd in Kanagawa, near Tokyo.