The family of a Connecticut woman, who fell to her death in a parasailing accident when her harness allegedly broke, has filed a negligence lawsuit against the boat operators and the resort in Florida.
A husband and wife were vacationing in Pompano Beach, Florida when they participated in a parasailing excursion.
On August 15th Kathleen and Stephen Miskell rode in tandem on a parasail they rented from Waveblast Watersports in the waters off Pompano Beach. It is believed that Kathleen’s harness broke due to its poor condition.
The victim’s husband has filed a lawsuit against Waveblast Watersports II, Inc.; Sands Harbor Inc., the resort where the parasailing company operated; Custom Chutes, Inc.; VL Gaskin T/A Waterbird Parakites; Casey Fuller, the boat captain and Jeffrey Zabadal, the mate.
Fuller and Zabadal were criticized in the lawsuit for reeling in the victim’s husband instead of immediately coming to her aid. The SunSentinel newspaper interviewed an expert after the incident, stating that the captain took the right course of action.
“We want justice for Kathleen,” said James Mulcahy, Kathleen’s father. “She died so innocently, like a lamb in the slaughter.”
The Miskells, married for three years and had just recently purchased a home in Connecticut, were vacationing in Florida when they decided to take what the company’s brochure described as a $30 thrilling ride “above the beautiful blue ocean.”
Stephen Miskell, who was strapped into his own harness, watched as his wife slipped free and fell the equivalent of 20 stories.
Kathleen Miskell was found face down in the water. Attempts to revive her were unsuccessful. The Broward Medical Examiner’s Office later said that Kathleen Miskell, 28, died from “asphyxia due to drowning and multiple blunt force injuries.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, with help from the National Transportation Safety Board, has been investigating the incident.
Charles Seitz, president/CEO of the Sands Harbor Resort & Marina said Wednesday that the hotel’s insurance company is handling the claim.
Seitz said that Waveblast rented an office out of the hotel to rent jet skis only, and he had no knowledge that there was a parasailing operation being run from its dock.
“We had no knowledge of the incident,” he said.
Mulcahy said that he hopes the lawsuit raises awareness of the largely unregulated activity, even though it is not going to bring his daughter back.
“People go parasailing and have no idea that their lives are in jeopardy,” said Mulcahy. “We want to bring some common sense regulation to the activity. We’re looking for justice for Kathleen.”
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages “in excess of $15,000” on behalf of Stephen Miskell and his wife’s estate.
This lawsuit comes one month after a bill Florida State Senator Maria Sachs (D-Boca Raton) sponsored to regulate the parasailing industry failed to make it past the committee meetings.
However, shortly after Kathleen Miskell’s tragic accident, there was a push by local legislators to beef up regulations for the parasailing industry.
In the state of Florida, the only requirements for a parasailing business are a boat, some equipment, insurance and a licensed boat captain.
Since 1982, there have been 429 serious accidents, with 72 deaths, according to the Parasail Safety Council.
The “White-Miskell Bill,” was named for Miskell and Amber White, 15, who was killed in 2007 when her parasailing line snapped due to windy conditions, also off Pompano Beach. She and her sister hit a beachfront hotel. Her sister survived the accident.
Kathleen Miskell, a teacher’s aide in Connecticut, was an active member of the Irish American Home Society and an accomplished Irish step dancer.
It is unfortunate that restrictions are not in place when it comes to parasailing. In addition to prohibiting parasailing in windy or other inclement weather conditions, proper maintenance and inspection of the equipment should be mandatory. This accident could have been avoided if safety regulations were required.
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