According to the Parasail Safety Council, since 1982, there have been an estimated 130 million parasail rides with harnesses. Of those, 429 resulted in serious injuries and 72 deaths. In Florida alone, there have been 6 fatalities, including Miskell’s.
Miami lawyer Ira Leesfield, whose work focuses on parasailing accidents, says opening a parasail concession is an easy — and lucrative — business to get into in Florida. And most visitors, he said, don’t realize that it’s unsafe because it’s often booked through a hotel.
Waveblast operates out of the Sands Harbor Hotel.
“There’s no due diligence, no inspection. You just take your chances,’’ Leesfield said.
All authorities would say Thursday was that Miskell’s death was the result of some sort of “malfunction.’’
“We are still trying to answer all of the questions,” said Carli Segelson of the FWC, which was interviewing witnesses Thursday.
McCulloh, who patented the sport more than 40 years ago, said “malfunction” basically “is a polite way of saying it wasn’t the girl’s fault.” He said investigators are likely examining the harness to determine whether it was too large and Miskell slipped out, whether one or more clips weren’t fastened, and any number of other things that may have gone wrong.
In a tandem ride, McCulloh said, the harness would be hooked to a tow bar attached to the parasail.
In order for the harness itself to break, the threading would have to give out or the nylon would have to be rotted.
Waveblast’s owner, Zachary Chandler, would not comment, and calls and an email to his attorney were not returned.
“We run a very safe operation,” said Waveblast employee Luke Galgano, after the boat was pulled out of the water 10 p.m. Wednesday. “We have the best equipment and this is just a freak accident that happened...I’m sorry for the family, sorry for their loss.’’
Waveblast was closed for business on Thursday.
Records show Chandler has been in the parasail business since 2003, but has changed the name of his company several times. At one time, it was operating under the name Fort Lauderdale Parasail.
In Nov. 2011, David J. Nice sued Chandler and Waveblast Water Sports, saying Chandler never handed over the title and equipment Nice had paid for. The lawsuit claimed Chandler was hired to run the boat but instead placed the title under his own company’s name. The case was later dismissed.
The Miskells, who were married for three years, were on vacation before the start of school, staying with friends in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. On Wednesday, about 3 p.m., they boarded the company’s 28-foot open motor boat to take what the company’s brochure describes as a $30 thrilling ride “above the beautiful blue ocean.’’
Those who have parasailed have described the experience like riding a rollercoaster, but with a graceful, and gradual, fall to the sea.
Their daytrip began about three-quarters of a mile off shore from Hillsborough Inlet, when the Miskells were reeled into the air.
The couple, the boat operator, Casey L. Fuller, and the mate, Jeffrey Zabadal, were the only ones on the boat, Segelson said.
Authorities could not say how long the couple were in the air, or how far out to sea they were when the accident happened. Stephen Miskell, a native of Ireland who runs a tile business, was interviewed by authorities, but investigators have not released what he saw happen, or whether he knew what led to the tragedy.