South Carolina tourist dies while parasailing off Longboat Key

For the second time in a year a tourist has died in a parasail accident off Florida's west coast.

David Richard Sieradzki, 31, of South Carolina died about a mile off Longboat Key on Monday after the boat lost speed and the parasail floated down into the water, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Sieradzki was in the air when the parasail boat Almost Heaven experienced a problem that stopped the propellers from spinning, said wildlife commission spokesman Gary Morse.

Sieradzki fell from as high as 800 feet at an unknown speed, according to the Coast Guard.

"What we do know is that he landed in the water just fine, but something happened to cause him to die once he was in the water," Morse said. "He did not come down hard."

Sieradzki was wearing a life jacket and waving his hands in the water, Morse said.

Crew members pulled Sieradzki back to the boat by hand. By the time he got to the boat, Sieradzki was likely unconscious, according to the Coast Guard.

They performed CPR on him until the Coast Guard arrived about 5:48 p.m. The Coast Guard continued CPR on Sieradzki as he was taken to Coquina boat ramp on Anna Maria Island. Manatee County emergency workers declared him dead about 5:55 p.m.

The wildlife commission and Coast Guard are investigating.

This is the second fatal parasailing incident in the area in the past year.

Alejandra White, a 27-year-old tourist from Georgia, was killed in September while parasailing along Clearwater Beach after the rope snapped. White's fiance, Shaun Ladd, also was injured. The Coast Guard is still investigating.

Legislators this year proposed a bill, named after White, that would have established state oversight of the commercial parasailing industry. The bill failed.

In Monday's accident, both the Coast Guard and the wildlife commission are continuing separate investigations.

Morse said investigations typically take a few months but can last much longer.

Eight people, including two crew members, were aboard the 28-foot commercial parasailing vessel. The vessel belongs to Fun & Sun Parasail and was captained by John Crews.

Almost Heaven is an uninspected vessel, meaning the Coast Guard does not check it. The wildlife commission and Coast Guard do not regulate parasailing.

Sieradzki was aboard the boat with his wife, Stephanie, 32, and family, said father-in-law Bud Hazel, 57, who lives in South Carolina.

He said his daughter and Sieradzki were vacationing in Florida with family.

Hazel got the call from his daughter Monday night.

"He came down and was waving for help," he said. "They hand-pulled the ropes in. By the time they pulled him in, he was dead.

"She was standing in the boat watching."

They wanted to parasail together, but for some reason the boat wouldn't pull them both, he said. So Stephanie went first and Sieradzki went next. That's when the boat quit.

Hazel said Sieradzki was a lot of fun and always wonderful to his daughter.

"He was the perfect son-in-law," he said.

Sieradzki worked in information technology in Fountain Inn, S.C. His daughter works in radiology in nearby Greenville, S.C.

"Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with the friends and families of the deceased," Coast Guard Cmdr. Peter Martin, deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, said in a statement.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8804.

South Carolina tourist dies while parasailing off Longboat Key 06/28/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 12:21am]

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