Florida Keys

Florida Keys Boat Captain Facing Manslaughter Charge in May Parasailing Death

The victim, 33-year-old Supraja Alaparthi, was parasailing with her 10-year-old son and 9-year-old nephew back on May 30 when the winds picked up and slammed them into the old Seven Mile Bridge west of Marathon

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A Florida Keys boat captain is facing a manslaughter charge in connection with a May parasailing incident that left a woman dead.

Daniel Gavin Couch, 49, was booked into jail Thursday, Monroe County Sheriff's Office officials said.

Daniel Gavin Couch
Monroe County Sheriff's Office
Daniel Gavin Couch

"The family is thankful for friends, family and members of the community for reaching out and showing their support," said attorney Ricky Patel, who represents the family of victim Supraja Alaparthi. "It means a lot to them. They're hopeful with this step today that we can get one step closer to making sure that this doesn't happen to any family again."

The victim, 33-year-old Alaparthi, was parasailing with her 10-year-old son and 9-year-old nephew back on May 30 when the winds picked up and slammed them into the old Seven Mile Bridge west of Marathon, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said.

With the parasail pegged, the captain cut the line tethered to the three victims, an FWC report said. They were dropped from an unknown height and were dragged through the surface of the water until the parasail collided with the bridge.

An arrest warrant released Thursday said Couch and a crew member had tried to bring Alaparthi and the two kids down with the winch but couldn't due to the strong winds.

The warrant said after the impact, the parasail was draped over the top of the bridge with all three hanging from the bridge and Alaparthi submerged in the water.

"The captain did not maneuver his vessel under the bridge to offer aide even though the family members on the parasail vessel later reported they were begging him to help," the warrant said.

A good Samaritan in another boat responded and was the first to give assistance, cutting all three from their harnesses and placing them on their boat, the warrant said.

The warrant said weather and wind speed were contributing factors to the incident.

NBC 6's Victor Jorges has more on the arrest that took place after the tragedy earlier this year.

"Weather data, pictures, and videos gathered throughout the investigation show black, ominous looking clouds and areas of high winds in the vicinity of the incident," the warrant said.

The warrant said video footage taken by Alaparthi before the incident showed Couch was aware of the adverse weather conditions, when he remarked that the waves were white capping and the clouds were too big.

Couch failed to "use any available means to determine the prevailing and forecasted weather conditions," the warrant said. "Daniel Couch had an utter disregard for the care of his passengers who entrusted him with their lives by allowing them to fly after he verbally acknowledges to his crew member within one minute of flight that the weather was quickly deteriorating."

“He failed to have his radio working, which would have advised him of weather reports. He failed to check the GPS. That also would have shown the incoming weather," said attorney Pedro Echarte, who also represents the Alaparthi family. "He lied to investigators about using his cellphone to check the weather throughout the day.”

The warrant also said Couch's decision to cut the tow line was "gross and flagrant" and he should have taken into account other possible options.

"The husband of the deceased, he's still trying to figure out how to get by," Patel said. "He's got two very young children. He's been dealing with trying to explain how a family trip that was supposed to have so much joy for them that they had saved up for so long. So it's a tragedy where the children no longer have their mother.”

In June, the family of Alaparthi filed a wrongful death lawsuit on her behalf against the parasailing company.

Attorneys with the Haggard law firm in Coral Gables, which is representing the family, released photos that were taken by the family and that they claim show unsafe weather conditions right after the family went into the air.

The suit claims the company was negligent for failing to check the weather and for operating in unsafe weather conditions.

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