Coast Guard sets hearing on fatal parasailing accident
Posted September 18, 2009 5:25 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2009 9:35 a.m. EDT
Wilmington, N.C. — The U.S. Coast Guard has scheduled a hearing next week into the deaths of two women in a parasailing accident off Ocean Isle Beach last month.
The Sept. 23-25 hearing will help the Coast Guard develop conclusions and recommendations to improve the safety of parasailing vessels, authorities said.
Cynthia Woodcock, 60, of Kernersville, and Lorrie Shoup, 55, of Granby, Colo., went parasailing off Ocean Isle Beach on Aug. 28 while on a trip with Woodcock's aunt, Sybil Carpenter of Cary, and another friend. The tow rope for their parasail snapped, and Woodcock and Shoup plummeted into the choppy water. An autopsy showed they died of blunt force trauma.
Tropical Storm Danny was kicking up wind and waves along much of the coast that day, but tropical storm watches that covered the Outer Banks didn't extend southward to Ocean Isle Beach.
The Coast Guard plans to hear testimony from the crew of the parasailing boat, Tied High, several passengers and representatives of the National Weather Service and the Professional Association of Parasail Operators.
The National Transportation Safety Board helped the Coast Guard test and analyze the parasailing chute, harness, towline and associated equipment following the accident.
N.C. Watersports, the company that operated the parasailing boat, closed for the summer shortly after the fatal accident.
Neither the Coast Guard nor the state Department of Labor regulate parasailing operators. Officials said it is considered a recreational activity, like hang-gliding or skydiving.
Still, the Coast Guard issued a safety alert to the parasailing industry Thursday, reminding operators to closely monitor current and forecasted weather and sea conditions, especially wind speed.