Articles Tagged with “Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission”

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TIM-SHORTT-FLORIDA-TODAY

Photographer: Tim Shortt
Media: Florida Today

Last week, two out of four boaters were killed after their airboat flipped in the air while traveling up the St. Johns River in Melbourne, Florida. Eyewitness and fellow airboater Timothy Young told USA Today the airboat “was going kind of fast” and the “back half of the boat was sitting kind of low” before the incident occurred, suggesting operator error may not be the sole cause for the tragedy.

Like in any boating incident, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) is in charge of the investigation and finding out whether the driver was negligent or whether the incident was precipitated by some sort of maintenance issue or mechanical failure.

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Boating season is upon us, kicked off during Memorial Day weekend only days away.  During the last weekend of Spring, South Florida will once again become the boating capital of the world for many weeks to come, and each year around this time Ira H. Leesfield, renews its boating safety warnings to the public and businesses who partake in recreational boating.

Focusing on boat tours, South Florida offers a wide range of attractions that entertain countless visitors and locals alike.  Zipping through the Star Islands aboard a speedboat, gliding on an Airboat in the Everglades, renting a mini catamaran off Key Biscayne, touring the Florida Keys on a jet-ski, paddle-boarding with friends off the Bay, parasailing along North Miami Beach, kitesurfing or windsailing along Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, these are just a few available attractions where visitors rely on the experience, training, and competence of tour operators for their ultimate safety.

Unfortunately, there is no avoiding boat accidents at this time of year, yet, incomprehensibly, none of these accidents should ever occur.  Whether a boat tour operator drives its vessel too fast, in a careless manner, causing injuries or death to its passengers, or whether a boat capsizes due to the overloading of passengers, or even whether two vessels collide due to alcohol consumption or lack of training, every single boat accident is avoidable.

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On Saturday night, a two boats were involved in an accident off Biscayne Bay, one mile off Matheson Hammock in Coral Gables, Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission which is investigating every single boating accident in the region has relayed minimal information through its spokesperson, Jorge Pino. What the public knows thus far is that a 68-foot motor yacht traveling north along the coast collided with a 27-foot pleasure boat that was navigating south along the coast.

5137409_G.jpgThree occupants of the smaller boat fell into the water and were injured in the accident. All three were pulled onto the yacht by some of the 21 passengers on board. Among the three injured people, Maria Del Valle, 29, was critically injured. She was initially taken to Mercy Hospital for treatment before being transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she tragically died.

Maria Del Valle was the mother of four children, with the youngest child being just 14-months-old, according to the FWC. The father of her youngest child, Maykel Perdomo, 33, is among the injured people who were on the small boat and thrown into the water. He is said to be in stable condition at this time. The third person involved is Dayron Baralt, 23, who was still in critical condition yesterday. His status remains unknown at this time.

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On Tuesday July 3, 2013, two teenage girls from Indiana were vacationing in Panama City and purchased a parasail tour. While in the air, a severe storm began to develop and the two rope snapped due to the high winds. The two 17-year-old girls, Alexis Fairchild and Sidney Good, who were riding in tandem, were at the mercy of the winds. Not before long the parasail crashed into the side of a condominium. Seconds later, the girls hit powerlines or a utility pole before plummeting down in a parking lot. According to witnesses, both girls were limp, on the ground. Rescue rushed them to the Bay Medical-Sacred Heart hospital in Panama City. They remain in critical condition.

This incident is the latest of numerous parasailing accidents off the Florida coasts in the last several years. As is customary in shoreline incidents, the Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has taken over the investigation. The investigators released a preliminary statement that seems to corroborate severe weather developing before or during the parasailing activity: “Sidney Renea Good of Roanoke and Alexis Fairchild of Huntington were parasailing in a tandem harness over the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City Beach when an afternoon storm developed with strong winds.”

In 2007, two teenage sisters were also vacationing in Florida when they decided to take a ride up on a parasail. Like Alexis and Sidney, they were both incredibly excited. Several minutes into the ride, strong winds started to build up. The boat was pushed towards the shore line more and more and the two girls were helplessly dangling in the air, above the beach, near the buildings. See the video below:

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In light of the latest parasailing tragedy that took place two days ago in Pompano Beach, a new push for safety regulations of the parasailing industry is to be expected and encouraged by all, especially Floridians who have become the forced audience of so many fatal accidents, all of which preventable.

When Ira Leesfield represented the White family, in 2007, after the death of Amber and the catastrophic brain injury to Crystal, her sister, Leesfield Scolaro engaged in a national awareness campaign which included appearances on the Today Show, and Inside Edition. The goal was not only to bring attention to the dangers associated with parasailing when precautions are not taken (they almost never are), but also and most importantly to push legislators in Florida and in other coastal states to pass laws and safety regulations at once. Two drafts of the Amber May White Act were introduced before the Florida legislators in 2007 and 2008, but both failed.

The death of Kathleen Miskell, a 28-year-old woman from Wethersfield, Connecticut, will once more sound the alarm to all who want to hear it. The self-imposed safety measures that the parasailing industry claims to be following are insufficient, inadequate and simply intolerable. On a daily basis, these unregulated businesses, often manned by incompetent and inexperienced individuals, place their customers in danger. The equipment used for parasailing is never inspected, the ropes used to tug the chute with one, or two, sometimes even three people, are improper and overused. Companies often use the same chute regardless of the weight or the number of people they are sending up hundreds of feet in the air. Yet, there is no accountability. Ira Leesfield reiterated his concerns to the Miami Herald, concerns that grow stronger with each and every parasailing victim Leesfield Scolaro represents.

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Yesterday, August 15, 28-year-old Kathleen Miskell from Wethersfield, Connecticut, was killed in a parasailing incident that took place in Pompano Beach, Florida. The early details obtained by the investigators of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Pompano Beach Fire Rescue who were rushed to the scene, point to the young woman’s harness breaking when the parasail was already up in the air and tugged by the boat. As soon as the harness broke, Kathleen Miskell fell approximately 150 to 200 feet into the ocean. She was pronounced dead at Broward Health North.

kathleenmiskell.jpg Stephen and Kathleen Miskell were parasailing as a tandem at the time of the incident. They had purchased a parasail ride with Waveblast Watersports, Inc., a parasail and jet ski rental company that operates in Pompano Beach, and out of the Sands Harbor Resort.

A history of Parasailing Incidents

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