A woman from Illinois was killed and two young children were injured when a sudden storm prompted a boat captain to cut loose their parasail, which then dragged them across the ocean and slammed them into a bridge in the Florida Keys, authorities said.
A nearby boater saw them hit the water and rushed to rescue them, pulling the victims into his boat and taking them to waiting paramedics, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a news release sent Tuesday night.
The 33-year-old woman from Schaumburg, Illinois, had already died by the time they arrived at the nearby Sunset Grill Marina, authorities said.the woman was identified as Supraja Alaparthi. Her son Sriakshith Alaparthi, 10, and nephew Vishant Sadda, 9, were both injured.
John Callion, a fishing guide, raced around Pigeon Key to reach them, his fiancée, Kasey Platt, told WPLG.
“He was pretty frantic on the call. He said, ‘Call 911 right away,'” Platt told the television station.
A video taken by Callion appears to show victim the three being dragged through the water, CBS Chicago.
Callion told the Miami Herald that the Memorial Day storm developed suddenly.
“It was pretty much flat calm, but you could see the storm coming. All of the sudden, the temperature dropped by 10 degrees and the wind started blowing like crazy,” Callion said.
The captain on the boat pulling the parasail “cut a line tethered to the three victims” because the parasail was “pegging,” or dragging the boat, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report released Tuesday night.
The woman and children were then dragged “through and across the surface of the water” by the inflated parasail until they collided with the Old Seven Mile Bridge, the agency’s report said.
Callion found the 10-year-old boy battered but awake. The 9-year-old boy was unconscious and wrapped in the parasail’s lines.
“It was pretty much the worst thing you could imagine,” he said. “It was real bad.”
The Coast Guard and the state’s wildlife agency are investigating.
“Our condolences are with the family and loved ones of those affected by Monday’s accident,” said Capt. Jason Ingram, Coast Guard Sector Key West commander. “This was a tragedy for a family seeking to enjoy their visit to the Florida Keys.”
Mark McCulloh founded the Parasail Safety Council and pushed to strengthen Florida’s parasailing safety laws in 2014. He told CBS Chicago he has seen a few key factors in the deadly parasailing accidents he’s on which he has consulted.
“A common factor was the wind – how do you deal with it? How far do you stay offshore? What type of equipment you were using; the care of the equipment,” McCulloh said. “I can tell you – the winds on the west coast of Florida, you got to be really on your toes to parasail.”