Local News

Families sue parasail operator over fatal accident

Posted June 24, 2010 10:40 a.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2010 2:33 p.m. EDT

— 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.