Florida boat captain who cut tether to parasail is charged in tourist’s death

CHICAGO (WBBM) — The operator of a parasailing boat has been charged in the death of a young mother after he cut the tether as she and two boys were being towed near the Florida Keys.

Supraja Alaparthi, her son and her nephew as the parasailing canopy rose behind the boat. (Video image via CNN) 

The three fell from from an unknown height and were dragged through the water for two miles by the parasailing canopy until it became snagged on Old Seven Mile Bridge near Pigeon Key, the investigators’ report said.

Supraja Alaparthi, 33, died at the scene. Her 10-year-old son and 9-year-old nephew were injured.

Daniel Gavin Couch, 49, was booked into the jail in Monroe County, Florida, on one count of manslaughter and was being held Thursday on $100,000 bond, the sheriff’s office confirmed to CBS Miami News.

Couch, working for Lighthouse Parasail,  had been hired on Memorial Day of this year for a parasailing outing by 12 members of a vacationing family from the Chicago area.

Alaparthi and the two boys were the second group to go up. As they were towed over the gulf — with their family, including the woman’s 6-year-old daughter,  watching from the boat below — the parasail was buffeted by strong winds. Couch apparently became concerned that the boat would be dragged by the parasail, endangering the passengers, and he cut the line that connected the sail to the boat.

A fisherman who witnessed the incident chased the loose canopy and caught up with the victims as they dangled from the bridge. He cut them from their harnesses and took them ashore. The woman never regained consciousness.

Prosecutors said that cutting the tether was reckless, and not only violated commercial parasailing guidelines, but was criminal.

Attorneys hired by family of the victims have also filed a lawsuit in the wake of the crash.

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