On July 17th, 2020, 33-year-old Andrew John Santeiro was the captain of a Sunset Watersports parasail boat when the two tourists it was towing dropped from the air and were dragged by strong winds through the water for several minutes.
On the day of the accident, Florida Fish & Wildlife indicate that the couple had spent about one minute up in the parasail when a strong gust pushed the sail out from behind the boat. The force from the wind was so strong that the boat itself tilted on its side and began to take on water. The captain ordered the passengers to move to the other side of the boat to balance the vessel, though during this time the towline snapped and the parasail was left at the mercy of the wind.
When the towline broke, the victims dropped from an unspecified height and continued to be dragged through the water by strong gusts of wind. Tragically, the part of the towline attached to the boat became wrapped around the propeller and prevented the captain from rescuing the two victims attached to the parasail. It's believed that almost ten minutes passed before the parasail deflated and the victims dropped into the water.
A San Antonio, TX, native, 29-year-old Azalea Silver was airlifted to a Miami hospital following rescue; she succumbed to traumatic brain injuries from the accident on July 1st. Nicholas Hayward, a 36-year-old from Costa Rica, died from drowning on the day of the accident.
Around noon on the day of the accident, the wind speed in the Florida Keys area where the trip would take place was officially recorded as 18.5mph. Per Florida Fish & Wildlife, peak gusts were 35.5mph and average gusts were 25.5mph. State statutes indicate that if the wind speed is over 20 mph and gusts are over 25mph, parasailing is prohibited.
It is not clear if captain Santeiro was aware of the increased winds or not; nevertheless, he has been charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence. This entails a reckless disregard for human life and the safety of others. He also faces three additional misdemeanors related to the accident. As of August 2021, Santeiro had posted a $230,000 bond following his arrest.
Lawsuits surrounding parasailing accident injuries or deaths can be very complicated. This is because there are many factors that go into determining who was responsible for initiating the water sports activity and what could have been done to prevent an accident if anything at all.
Undoubtedly, it's very easy to look back after tragedy strikes and establish different courses of action that could have prevented an accident. Yet, being able to say what could have been done differently does not necessarily establish responsibility or negligence on behalf of one party or another. What must be clearly understood is the regulations and laws put in place by the state and how these may have been violated.
While parasailing may seem like a haphazard activity, each state where these businesses are allowed to operate lays down some very specific standards for how the activity may be conducted. This can include the type of equipment that must be used, the weather conditions considered appropriate for the activity, and the operators who are allowed to take on this risk.
If victims of a parasailing accident are not represented by an experienced water sports accident attorney, they may lose their chance at getting compensation for their damages. The specialized nature of these cases means that not just any injury law firm can manage it responsibly or with the best interests of the victim and their loved ones in mind.
It is not necessary for the state to press criminal charges against a boat operator or business entity for victims to be able to fight for justice and compensation. In fact, the criminal justice system is unlikely to provide the full compensation that victims regularly require to cover their extensive medical expenses following such incidents. On the other hand, a civil lawsuit can pursue much greater compensation that considers all expenses including medical bills, pain & suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, funeral & burial expenses, and much more.
If you or a loved one were injured or killed in a parasailing accident, the Haggard Law Firm is prepared to fight for you. Contact us now for a free consultation in which you'll learn all about your rights and get the answers to any questions you may have.