GULF SHORES, Ala. — A father and his 7-year-old daughter survived a parasailing accident in Gulf Shores, Ala., last week when the line tethering them to the boat snapped and sent them careening 400 feet into the Gulf.
U.S. Coast Guard Commander Robert Compher told AL.com that the father and daughter were rescued by the towboat that had been pulling them. The father needed to have stitches for a gash to his forehead, Steve Vrondran, owner of Perdido Key Parasail, told AL.com. The girl was reportedly fine after bumping her head in the accident.
A powerful storm with winds of 40-50 mph that blew across Alabama’s coast Tuesday around 3 p.m. may have contributed to the accident, but investigators are taking a closer look to see whether lapses in safety measures and preparedness may have contributed.
On Wednesday, Coast Guard officials conducting a routine inspection of a Perdido Key Parasail craft noticed the boat’s commander was acting strangely. They arrested the man after he failed sobriety tests.
Coast Guard officials said the boat they were inspecting was the same one involved in the June 30 incident, but the captain was not the same one who was behind the wheel at that time.
“A Coast Guard boarding team went out yesterday and boarded the vessel and noted that the master was a little bit off, or acting suspiciously, so they did sobriety tests,” Cmdr. Compher told AL.com. “He failed and they took him to shore where he failed (a) field sobriety test. He was cited for boating under the influence.”
The boat captain was tested for both drugs and alcohol. The results of those tests are expected this week.
Mr. Vrondran told AL.com that the boat captain involved in the parasailing accident was a “very safe captain” who had a clean safety record for the five years he’s been working with Perdido Key Parasail.
Most states and municipalities do not regulate the parasailing industry. However, AL.com notes that Gulf Shores is one place that has an ordinance requiring parasailing ventures to comply with specific safety measures, including certain tow line standards, keeping the parasail under 500 feet, and other rules that went into effect in 2010.
Cmdr. Compher told AL.com that the investigation could take weeks or even months before a determination is made. “We look at all the facts like the weather, we talk to the operators, we talk to the passengers, we look at the parameters they were operating in and the equipment they were using,” he told AL.com