New details have been released after a woman 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. She was identified as Supraja Alaparthi.
Alaparthi's 10-year-old son and 9-year-old nephew were taken to hospitals for treatment.
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, after it was hit by a strong gust of wind, 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.
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."
An official with the parasail company, Lighthouse Parasail Inc., of Marathon, told NBC 6 over the phone that they were devastated by the accident and cooperating with authorities, but said they did everything by the book.
NBC 6 called and texted a listed phone number for the boat captain but has not heard back.
Parasail expert Mark McCulloh said a parasail becomes pegged when it is at its maximum height and can no longer be controlled by the boat.
He said cutting a line at that time is not standard protocol.
"That’s not something we would ever train a parasail captain to do," McCulloh said. "In a high wind the parasail is not going to land and collapse, number one, it’s going to keep on going. You never cut the line when you’re in mid flight. Because then you’ve lost total control of it. And the fact is in some cases the trajectory of its trajectory to descending might be so far away that your boat could not even catch up with it."
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