Boat captain accused of intentionally cutting tether in deadly parasail accident

MARATHON, Fla. — A boat captain in the Florida Keys whose actions were blamed for killing a mother who was parasailing with her two young children has been charged with her death.

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Daniel Gavin Couch, 49, was arrested on one count of manslaughter and taken to the Monroe County Jail on a $100,000 bond, The Miami Herald reported.

Couch had intentionally cut the parasailing cable that tethered a vacationing mother, her son and her nephew to his boat, plunging them into the water in May. Supraja Alaparthi and the two boys were dragged across the water for more than a mile before hitting a bridge in the Florida Keys, as we reported at the time.

According to a report from investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Couch admitted to cutting the tether after the parasail “pegged,” meaning it filled with so much air from a gust of wind that he feared it would drag the boat, The Miami Herald reported.

The warrant for Couch’s arrest, obtained by WPLG, alleges that Couch violated several commercial parasailing statutes, and notes that the weather, specifically the wind speed, was a “key contributing factor” in the accident.

Alaparthi’s family filed a lawsuit against the parasail operator in June, in which they argued that Couch continued to send family members up in the parasail rig, despite worsening weather. In the complaint, the family argues that the weather deteriorated to a point where the parasail “began to sway violently back and forth” and neither Couch nor his first mate were able to control the boat or parasail, The Miami Herald reported.

The boys with Alaparthi, who were ages 9 and 10, were injured but survived the accident, and were rescued from the water by a good Samaritan.

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