A Memorial Day parasailing adventure turned into "pretty much the worst thing you could imagine," according to a witness of what became a deadly tragedy for a vacationing family in the Florida Keys. Supraja Alaparthi, 33, of Illinois was parasailing with her 10-year-old son and 9-year-old nephew off Marathon around 5:30pm when a gust of wind from an approaching storm filled their sail with so much air that it risked dragging the boat that was pulling them and carrying nine others from Schaumburg, Ill., per the Miami Herald and WPLG. The boat's captain, 49-year-old Daniel Couch, then did what some say was a very wrong move: He cut the line tying the group's harness to the vessel, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report.
"He never should have done that," Mark McCulloh of the Florida-based Parasail Safety Council tells the Herald, noting there are other tactics that would have deflated the parasail, such as steering side to side. Alaparthi and the children then dropped into the water, with the wind still filling the sail, and were dragged across the surface. Witness and fishing guide John Callion estimates they were dragged a mile or two before slamming into a decommissioned bridge. By the time Callion reached the group in his own boat, only 10-year-old Sriakshith Alaparthi was conscious, per the Herald. His mother had no pulse. Vishant Sadda, 9, "was brought back to life by my male customer on board en route to the dock," Callion writes in a Facebook post.
"Local EMTs met us at the dock to continue lifesaving measures," Callion adds. Supraja Alaparthi was pronounced dead, while the children were taken to a hospital in Marathon. Vishant—listed in critical condition with reported injuries to his legs, torso, arms, and left eye—was later flown to a children's hospital in Miami. The Herald was unable to reach Couch for comment. A co-owner of Lighthouse Parasail, which was operating the parasailing boat, tells WPLG that they are "devastated" by the incident. The FWC continues to investigate. Its incident report notes "severe weather is a factor," per Fox News. Callion notes in his online post that "it went from flat calm conditions to blowing 30mph in a matter of seconds." In the aftermath, "I truly did all I could do." (Read more parasailing stories.)