Local News

Families sue parasail operator over fatal accident

Posted June 24, 2010

— The families of two women killed last summer in a parasailing accident off Ocean Isle Beach have filed suit against the boat operator.

Cynthia Woodcock, 60, of Kernersville, and Lorrie Shoup, 55, of Granby, Colo., were parasailing on Aug. 28 when the tow rope connecting their parachute to the boat snapped. They plummeted about 500 feet into the choppy water, and wind gusts dragged the parachute across the water, slamming them into the boat and a pier.

Autopsies showed the women died of blunt force trauma.

The crew of the boat, Tied High, said during a Coast Guard inquiry last fall that a sudden gust of wind caught them off guard. The winds were so strong that the boat almost capsized before the tow line broke, they said.

The suit contends, however, that Thomas Povazan, the Tied High captain, and Barrett McMullan, the owner of N.C. Watersports, which owns and operates Tied High and the parasailing venture, were negligent.

Tropical Storm Danny was moving north offshore that day and was kicking up wind and waves along much of the coast. The National Weather Service issued a small-craft advisory for the North Carolina coast to warn boaters of dangerous conditions, according to the suit.

The parasail manufacturer included a warning that the parasail shouldn't be used in winds above 12 mph, and winds were gusting to 32 mph the day of the accident, the suit states.

Neither Povazan nor the ship's mate provided the two women with any safety instructions before they went for their flight, and they ignored the pleas of terrified passengers on the boat to pull the women in as the winds picked up, the suit states.

The families are seeking unspecified damages in the suit, which was filed last week in Forsyth County.

Neither the Coast Guard nor the state Department of Labor regulate parasail operators. Officials said it is considered a recreational activity, like hang-gliding or skydiving.

The Coast Guard hasn't issued any findings from its hearing, which was held to determine whether the government should impose safety regulations on the parasailing industry.

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  • kewlmom Jun 25, 10:26 a.m.

    They way I see it, parasailing was included as a high-risk activity when I applied for my life insurance. A "yes" to that activity would have raised my rates. Go figure...

  • csplantlover Jun 24, 5:09 p.m.

    It's a shame what happened to these women but I can't imagine what they were doing parasailing in that kind of weather. I would have been terrified - they weren't young, either.

  • veyor Jun 24, 5:08 p.m.

    They wouldn't want me on their jury.

  • edith wharton Jun 24, 4:27 p.m.

    I have been whitewater rafting, rock climbing, rappeling, hang gliding, parasailing and wind surfing. For all those activities I had to sign a waiver acknowledging that I understood the risks and would not hold the company liable for accidents. Unless it was true and provable gross negligence, I can't see a case being decided in favor of the plaintiffs.

  • Dale Jun 24, 3:40 p.m.

    I thought you had to sign your life away when you do these type of activities. I am sorry these women died, but they should have known the dangers in this sport. Now their families want to sue and profit off of this.

  • tainoscs Jun 24, 2:40 p.m.

    It is amazing how they sue over conditions that are not true and still it proceeds. On the day of the incident the National Weather Service Advisories DID NOT, I repeat, DID NOT extend to the area where the accident occurred. This being so, if anybody could be also included in the law suit would be the NWS/NOAA for not predicting the conditions for the area they were in. You can see this reported on September 23, 2009, under the title:"Owner: Wind gust caught parasail crew by surprise" referenced on the sidebar of this report. Also you could look at the news titeled:"Weak Danny churning up surf off Outer Banks" of Aug 28, 09 which says the weather would be fine except for strong rip currents spurred by TS Danny. There was no way for the boat operators to anticipate stron enough winds to cause the loss of life. I wonder if they have a policy to get every person on their thrill ride to sign a release of responsibility, lets face it these ladies were both over 55 and should have known the

  • GWALLY Jun 24, 2:07 p.m.

    Not having read the details of the suit aside...insurance companies many times will not pay a single dime or even listen to the "injured" unless lawyers are involved. Then lawyers tend to take the "shotgun" approach suing everyone even remotely connected trying to "discover" assets and deep pockets. Meanwhile your medical and or final expenses are out of pocket and you wait, and wait, and wait for reimbursement. Many times insurance co's will only pay "on the courthouse steps"...so the necessity of a "money grubbing" lawyer is created by the insurance company!!!

  • tictock Jun 24, 1:49 p.m.

    money money money...is that going to make you feel better for what has happened?

  • familyfour Jun 24, 1:41 p.m.

    parasailing.....

    The sheer act is dangerous....not including mother nature. There is air and water to deal with.

    When one does something daring, they must take into consideration 1) something may go wrong 2) you chose to take that chance.

    Hate it happened....but no one could control the wind sheers.

  • hallc Jun 24, 1:22 p.m.

    The lawsuit will not bring these two women back and perhaps their families should realize that they *the women* made a bad decision to go as they also knew there was a storm brewing! Accidents happen and although the boat owner is ultimately responsible for his boat/crew/actions, individuals should take responsiblity for their own actions

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