MARATHON, Fla. — A parasail struck the old Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys on Monday, killing a woman and injuring her son and nephew.
Update 11:33 p.m. EDT May 31: A boat captain intentionally cut a parasailing cable tethering the vacationing mother and two boys to the vessel, police confirmed to the Miami Herald late Tuesday.
The captain’s action plunged 33-year-old Supraja Alaparthi, her son and nephew into the water, causing them to be dragged across the surface for more than a mile before striking a Florida Keys Bridge, investigators told the newspaper.
The Herald identified the children as Sriakshith Alaparthi, Supraja Alaparthi’s 10-year-old son, who was injured but conscious after the crash; and Vishant Sadda, her 9-year-old nephew, who was pulled from the water unconscious.
According to police, Supraja Alaparthi was dead by the time a good Samaritan scooped her and the children out of the water and ferried them to an incident command center established at a restaurant dock in nearby Marathon, the Herald reported.
The newspaper identified the good Samaritan as John Callion, 33, citing the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office 911 call log.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s initial incident report, released Tuesday night, the parasailing boat’s captain, 49-year-old Daniel Couch, cut the line tethered to the harness because the parasail “pegged” in a high wind gust, meaning the sail was hyperventilated and risked dragging the boat, the Herald reported.
Original report: According to WSVN, the Illinois family was vacationing near Pigeon Key.
A witness told WPLG-TV that the weather took an unexpectedly nasty turn at around 6 p.m. and that the tow line on the woman’s parasail appeared to break, sending the parasail into the bridge.
The victims have not been identified publicly, and the woman’s sons, aged 7 and 10, were hospitalized with injuries, but their conditions remained unknown Tuesday night, WSVN reported.
According to WPLG, one of the boys was later airlifted to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital after initially being transported to a community medical center.
The other child was released with cuts and bruises, WSVN reported.
Witnesses told WPLG that a boater assisted with the rescue, freeing the woman and both boys from their harnesses before hauling them aboard his boat and shuttling them to the Sunset Grille dock in nearby Marathon.
The good Samaritan, who has not been identified publicly, told the TV station that one of the boys was conscious when he pulled them onto his vessel, but the mother and other boy were not.
“It went from flat calm conditions to blowing 30 mph in a matter of seconds. I knew right away the outcome was going to be bad. Sure enough the line connected to the parasail broke. At first and from a distance in the bridge seemed to be a saving grace to stop the parasail from traveling any further. Unfortunately the victims made contact with the wing wall section of the bridge and it was at a high rate of speed,” the man wrote in a Facebook post, obtained by WSVN.
“My heart and prayers go out to the victims, I truly did all I could do,” he concluded the post
An employee with Lighthouse Parasail told the TV station that the company is devastated by the incident and cooperating with authorities.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are investigating the incident.
An earlier version of this story identified the two unnamed children injured in the crash as the sons of the victim, since identified as Supraja Alaparthi. Authorities later identified the boys as Supraja Alaparthi’s 10-year-old son, Supraja Alaparthi’s, and her 9-year-old nephew, Vishant Sadda.
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