A Key West boat captain has been charged with manslaughter a year after he led a parasailing trip that turned deadly for two tourists.
Andrew John Santeiro, 33, was arrested Wednesday and taken to the county jail on Stock Island. He was released about five hours later after posting a $230,000 bond, jail records show.
Santeiro is accused of causing the deaths of Nicholas Hayward, 36, of Costa Rica, and Azalea Silva, 29, of San Antonio, Texas, by operating a Sunset Watersports boat in winds deemed too strong for parasailing under Florida law, according to the arrest warrant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
After the couple were put into the air, the parasail carrying the tourists dropped, dragging them through the water for several minutes, the warrant states. The parasailing trip on July 17, 2020, should have been stopped due to the winds that day, the fish and wildlife commission said.
“Santeiro neglected to take all available means to determine the weather before launching Hayward and Silva into flight,” the warrant states. Multiple witnesses said the boat nearly capsized “from the forces applied by the parasail in high wind,” the fish and wildlife commission said.
Calls to Sunset Watersports and an attorney representing the company were not immediately returned Thursday. It was unclear if Santeiro has a lawyer.
Santeiro is accused of manslaughter by “culpable negligence,” which is legally defined as “conduct showing reckless disregard for human life, or for the safety of other persons, or conduct showing an entire lack of care which raises a presumption of indifference to the consequences.”
Hayward, 36, died the day of the crash while Silva, 28, was airlifted to a Miami hospital.
Silva, who never regained consciousness, died July 1 from complications from a traumatic brain injury due to her injuries, the fish and wildlife commission said. The medical examiner determined Hayward died by drowning. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Monroe County after the incident.
At about noon on July 17, 2020, Santeiro was the boat captain on the trip during which Hayward and Silva went parasailing.
Between 12:15 and 12:20 p.m. that day, the average wind speed in the area was recorded at 18.5 mph, with average gusts of 25.5 mph, the fish and wildlife commission reported. Peak gusts were recorded at 35.5 mph.
“The observed wind speeds exceeds the standard of operation and Santeiro neglected to cease operation, causing Hayward and Silva’s death,” an agency investigator wrote in the arrest warrant.
Commercial parasailing is prohibited if wind conditions include a sustained wind speed of more than 20 mph, if wind gusts are 15 mph higher than the sustained wind speed, or if the wind speed during gusts exceeds 25 mph, according to the Florida statute.
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Santeiro helped put the couple into the parasail that afternoon, the fish and wildlife commission said. After about one minute of putting them in flight, a strong gust of wind caused the parasail holding the couple to move horizontal to the vessel and not directly behind as intended, the arrest warrant states.
The horizontal parasail caused the boat to tilt and it began to take on water, prompting Santeiro to yell for the people on board to move over to the starboard side to right the boat, Fish and Wildlife said. At some point, the parasail towline attached to the boat parted.
Hayward and Silva were dropped from an unknown height and were dragged through the water by the inflated parasail chute, the fish and wildlife commission said. The remaining towline attached to the boat snapped back to the vessel and lodged itself around the boat’s propeller.
“Hayward and Silva continued to drag through and across the surface of the water for about seven to nine minutes before the parasail finally deflated,” according to the arrest warrant.
Santeiro is also facing three misdemeanor charges of violating commercial parasailing requirements.
There was no functional VHF marine transceiver on the boat at the time and Santeiro used his cellphone to call an employee at the company for assistance, the fish and wildlife commission said.