In what can only be characterized as a repeat tragedy in South Florida, 28 year-old Kathleen Miskell of Connecticut was killed while riding a parasail off the coast of Pompano Beach, Florida yesterday. While her husband watched helplessly from the tandem parasail in which they were strapped, the harness holding Kathleen failed, throwing her 200 feet to the water. Ms. Miskell was pronounced dead at North Broward Medical Center a short time later.
This tragic death falls almost on the anniversary of the double tragedy involving 15 year-old Amber May White and her 16 year-old sister Crystal in 2007. Amber May was killed and Crystal suffered a severe head injury when the parasail on which they were riding disconnected from its line, throwing them into a building. This too occurred in Pompano Beach.
Mrs. Miskell died while aboard a Wave Blast Water Sports parasailing operation. The ride was operated out of the Sands Hotel in Pompano Beach. This took place by the Hillsboro Inlet.
In the years since the tragedy involving the White children, attempts have been made to regulate the parasailing industry. Attorney John Elliott Leighton, lead counsel for the White family in the litigation against the parasailing operators and resort where the tragedy occurred, has worked to propose legislation in Florida to prevent these types of horrors. His client and mother of the two girls, Shannon Kraus, has passionately worked toward passage of the Amber May Law, originally proposed by State Senator Gwen Margolis. The law would set minimum requirements for parasailing safety. The bill has failed to pass each time it has been proposed, being blocked by resort interests.
The death of Kathleen Miskell highlights the need for regulation. While visitors to Florida's resorts think they are in good hands, in reality there is no state or federal regulation. These tragedies keep occurring.
Without any regulation, it is only through aggressive litigation that the industry - and the resorts themselves - will place an emphasis on the safety of passengers as opposed to making a quick dollar. Currently anyone can get a boat, tow rope and parasail and open up a parasailing business. Unfortunately tourists are not informed of the risks or the experience or quality of the operators. Far too many of these operators fail to carry substantial insurance or inspect and replace their equipment in a timely manner. All of this contributes to eventual tragedy.
Board certified trial lawyer John Elliott Leighton has represented too many victims of parasailing mishaps. It is his hope that by bringing this situation to the attention of the public, both legislatures and the public will awaken before more people are injured or killed.
Mr. Leighton had to break the news of Ms. Miskell's death to Amber May's mother. Miskell died four days before the anniversary of Amber May's accident. Five years ago Shannon had to remove her daughter from life support and Amber May was buried on what would have been her 16th birthday. As Shannon said, " I hope no parent ever has to go through this again." Sadly, this time it is Ms. Miskell's husband Stephen who must suffer the greatest loss.