MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed Tuesday that the parasail company involved in a fatal accident on Memorial Day near Pigeon Key was Lighthouse Parasail Inc., which is based in Marathon.
According to officials, a woman and two children who were visiting from Schaumburg, Illinois, were parasailing around 5:30 p.m. Monday when winds picked up, causing the parasail to strike the Old Seven Mile Bridge.
The woman died from her injuries and one of the boys, identified as her nephew, was airlifted to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. The other boy, her son, suffered minor injuries.
John Callion, who cut the line on the parasail and helped free the woman and the two boys from their harnesses, said the woman and one of the boys were unconscious when he pulled them onto his boat.
“At around 5:30 p.m. I notice a parasail boat parasailing into a storm,” Callion posted on his Facebook page. “It went from flat calm conditions to blowing 30 mph in a matter of seconds. I knew right away the outcome was going to be bad. Sure enough the line connected to the parasail broke.
“As I continued to watch, it was very obvious the parasail boat needed help as they were chasing down the parasail with 3 people connected to it. The parasail was heading for the 7mile bridge at a high rate of speed. They probably traveled a distance between 1-2 miles. At first and from a distance, the bridge seemed to be a saving grace to stop the parasail from traveling any further.
“Unfortunately the victims made contact with the wing wall section of the bridge and it was at a high rate of speed. I was the first boat on the scene. Myself with my two passengers on board, I cut the harnesses to free each victim from the attached chute, which was hung up on the bridge.”
Callion brought the victims to Sunset Grill, which is located on the east end of the bridge, and they were met there by authorities.
“My passengers immediately started CPR until we arrive(d) on land,” he wrote in his Facebook post. “Once the victims were on board, I quickly drove the boat to Sunset Grill as fast as possible to meet with authorities.”
An official incident report indicated the woman and one of the children were unconscious when they arrived at the restaurant, where live-saving maneuvers were performed.
The child was eventually able to open his eyes and was alert when taken to the hospital. The woman was pronounced dead and next of kin was notified at the scene, as the report stated there were between 10-12 family members there, including her husband.
The accident remains under investigation by the FWC and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of the deceased during this time,” the FWC said in a statement.
“My heart and prayers go out to the victims, I truly did all I could do,” Callion wrote. “The one women was pronounced dead on arrival and the other boy that was unconscious was brought back to life by my male customer on board en route to the dock and local EMTs met us at the dock to continue lifesaving measures. In conclusion. Never take life for granted. Things can change in a second.”
The website for Lighthouse Parasail Inc. boasts a “spotless safety record.”
Local 10 News reached out to Lighthouse Parasail Inc., and a co-owner said over the phone they are “devastated” by what happened.