Captain Who Fatally Cut Parasail Line Arrested

A woman died and two children were injured in Memorial Day tragedy in Florida
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2022 9:56 AM CDT
Captain Who Cut Parasail Line Arrested: 'There Is No Excuse'
A parasail passes palm trees along Fort Lauderdale Beach, Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

A Florida boat captain who admitted cutting a line securing a parasail to his vessel, resulting in the death of one of three riders, has been arrested for manslaughter. Daniel Gavin Couch, 49, hadn’t done a recent weather check ahead of high winds on Memorial Day, which put the parasail at risk of dragging his boat and prevented the riders from being winched back in, according to an investigative report. Nor did he attempt maneuvers that would've lessened tension in the line. After he cut the line, 33-year-old Supraja Alaparthi, her 10-year-old son, and 9-year-old nephew traveled up to two miles across the water before slamming into a bridge. Alaparthi ended up submerged, per FL Keys News.

"There is no excuse for the negligence and disregard for public safety that was shown in this case," says Maj. Alberto Maza of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, per NBC News. Held Thursday in lieu of $100,000 bail, Couch is charged with one count of manslaughter and five counts of violation of commercial parasailing statutes. In a lawsuit, Alaparthi's family from Illinois claimed they offered to return the following day if conditions were more favorable, but Couch told them the weather was fine. In fact, weather warnings issued minutes before the boat left Captain Pip's Marina in Marathon would've prohibited Couch from launching the parasail by law, according to FWC Investigator Paige Pestka. But Couch apparently didn't hear them.

He told investigators that his VHF radio, used to relay weather warnings, was turned off, Pestka wrote. Still, witnesses, including the man who helped free the group, said storm clouds were visible on the horizon. By the time Alaparthi and the children got in the air following three other family members, the parasail "began to sway violently back and forth," according to a complaint. After cutting the line, Couch blew an airhorn meant to signal that the riders should activate a device designed to bring the parasail to a slow stop. But it did not deploy—it was installed upside down—and attempts to recover the parasail with a hook failed, Pestka wrote. Couch said he tried to call 911 but his phone records showed "no outgoing calls placed for emergency service," Pestka added. (More manslaughter stories.)

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