Broward County

Husband of victim files lawsuit after parasailing death

The husband of a woman who plummeted 200 feet to her death when her parasail harness malfunctioned last summer is suing the parasail company, the resort that offered the excursions and several other involved parties, according to his attorney.

Kathleen and Stephen Miskell were on a tandem ride by Waveblast Watersports in the waters off Pompano Beach on Aug. 15 when her harness gave way.

“We believe the harness broke and was in bad shape and poorly maintained,” said attorney Karen Terry, with the South Florida law firm Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA..

Being sued: Waveblast Watersports II, Inc.; Sands Harbor Inc., the resort where the parasailing company operated; Custom Chutes, Inc.; VL Gaskin T/A Waterbird Parakites; Casey Fuller, the boat captain and Jeffrey Zabadal, the mate.

Stephen Miskell is seeking “a substantial compensatory damage verdict,” as well as “punitive damages,” his attorney said.

“We want justice for Kathleen,” said James Mulcahy, Kathleen’s father. “She died so innocently, like a lamb in the slaughter.”

The Miskells, who had just bought a home in Connecticut, were vacationing in South Florida when they decided to take what the company’s brochure described as a $30 thrilling ride “above the beautiful blue ocean.’’

Her husband, strapped into his own harness, watched as his wife slipped free and fell the equivalent of 20 stories.

Kathleen Miskell was found face down in the water and attempts to revive her were unsuccessful. The Broward Medical Examiner’s Office later said Kathleen Miskell, 28, died from “asphyxia due to drowning and multiple blunt force injuries.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, with help from the National Transportation Safety Board, has been investigating the incident.

Jorge Pino, spokesman for the FWC, said Wednesday that the investigation was still ongoing and they are looking into every aspect, including whether anyone was careless or reckless and whether there was faulty equipment.

Terry said the lawsuit names all of the parties who they believe are responsible for Kathleen’s death.

Waveblast Watersports II, Inc.; VL Gaskin T/A Waterbird Parakites; Fuller and Zabadal could not be reached for comment.

There is a pending federal lawsuit against Waveblast by the company’s insurer, Lloyds of London. The insurance company says the vessel used in the accident was not insured.

Charles Seitz, president/CEO of the Sands Harbor Resort & Marina, said Wednesday that the hotel’s insurance company is handling the claim.

He said Waveblast rented an office out of the hotel to rent Jet Skis only, and had no knowledge that there was a parasailing operation run from its dock.

“We had no knowledge of the incident,” he said.

While he knows a lawsuit is not going to bring his daughter back, Mulcahy said he hopes the suit raises awareness of the largely unregulated activity.

“People don’t realize the risk they are taking when they strap on a harness,” he said.

The lawsuit comes a month after a bill sponsored by Florida State Senator Maria Sachs (D-Boca Raton) to regulate the parasailing industry failed to make it past the committee meetings.

Shortly after Kathleen Miskell’s accident there was a push by local legislators to beef up regulations for the parasailing industry.

In Florida, the only requirements to have a parasailing business is a boat, some equipment, insurance and a licensed boat captain.

According to the Parasail Safety Council, since 1982, there have been 429 serious accidents, with 72 deaths.

“We are doing everything we can to prevent another tragedy like this,” said Terry.