Illinois mother killed, 2 children injured parasailing in Florida Keys


PIGEON KEY, Florida. – An Illinois woman was killed and two young children were injured when a sudden storm prompted a boat captain to drop his parasailer, which then dragged them across the ocean and hurled 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 evening.

The 33-year-old Schaumburg, Illinois woman was already dead by the time she arrived at the nearby Sunset Grill marina, authorities said. Her 10-year-old son and 9-year-old nephew were taken to hospital for treatment.

John Callion, a fishing guide, raced around Pigeon Key to reach them, his fiancée, Kasey Platt, told WPLG-TV.

“He was quite frantic on the call. He said, “Call 911 right now,” Platt told the TV station.

Callion told the Miami Herald that the Memorial Day storm suddenly developed.

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“It was pretty calm, but you could see the storm coming. All of a sudden the temperature dropped 10 degrees and the wind started blowing like crazy,” Callion said.

The captain of the boat pulling the parasail “cut a line attached to the three victims” because the parasail was “tying up” or dragging the boat, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report released Tuesday evening.

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, according to the report. agency.

Mark McCulloh, a parasailing safety consultant from Maitland, Florida, said boat captains should never cut the cord when people are in the air.

“No no no. It’s not even in the cards,” McCulloh told The Associated Press. He noted that, generally speaking, a captain gives up control by cutting the line.

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“You run a huge risk because it’s windy. When the parasail lands in the water, it doesn’t stop moving,” he said.

Callion, the fishing guide who saw the accident, found the 10-year-old boy battered but awake. The 9-year-old boy was unconscious and wrapped in the lines of the parasailer.

“It was pretty much the worst thing you could imagine,” he said. “It was really bad.”

The Coast Guard and state wildlife agency are investigating. Neither responded to questions about the boat’s captain on Wednesday.

“Our condolences go out to the family and loved ones of those affected by Monday’s accident,” said Capt. Jason Ingram, commander of Coast Guard Sector Key West. “It was a tragedy for a family looking to enjoy their visit to the Florida Keys.”

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