Family of mom whose parasail hit Florida Keys bridge takes new action

Tribune Content Agency

MIAMI — The family of an Illinois woman who was killed in a Florida Keys parasailing tragedy last year has expanded a lawsuit against the owner of the boat. The suit now also targets the boat’s captain and mate, as well as the resort where the boat was docked.

Lawyers for Srinivasrao Alaparthi filed the amended wrongful death lawsuit in Monroe County court on Wednesday. It claims that not only did Lighthouse Parasail, the company that owned the boat mentioned in the original complaint filed a year ago, contribute to wife Supraja Alaparthi’s death, but so did boat captain Daniel Couch and mate Tanner Helmers. It also blames Captain Pip’s Marina and Hideaway, the resort where the family was staying at the time of the tragedy, and from where the boat was based and launched.

Supraja Alaparthi, then 33, was killed Memorial Day 2022 when the parasail she, her 10-year-old son and her 9-year-old nephew were harnessed to got caught up in a strong storm gust. That prompted Couch to cut the tow line, sending the three violently dragging across the water and into the Old Seven Mile Bridge off the Middle Keys city of Marathon.

An attorney representing Lighthouse Parasail did not immediately respond to a call requesting comment.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state agency investigating the incident, said Couch severed the line thinking Alaparthi and the children would drop to the ocean surface. Instead, the family was dragged for miles before hitting the iconic span.

FWC investigators also say Couch didn’t maneuver his boat under the bridge to try to release them. Instead, a flats fishing guide watching the incident unfold rushed to their aid, retrieving Alaparthi and the children and delivering them to paramedics waiting on shore at a Marathon waterfront restaurant.

It was too late for Supraja Alaparthi, who died. Her son suffered minor injuries and her nephew was seriously injured, investigators say.

Couch was arrested in September and charged with manslaughter and violating several parasailing statutes. He has pleaded not guilty, and the case is pending. Neither he nor Helmers could be reached for comment for this story.

Criminal investigators and lawyers for the family say the National Weather Service forecast high winds, heavy rains and thunderstorms just before the boat trip. Couch and Helmers shouldn’t have taken them out on the water, let alone hoisted them into the air with those looming weather conditions, they said.

Other family members and friends were on the boat that day, including the woman’s husband, Srinivasrao Alaparthi. He told ABC News’ Good Morning America this week that he didn’t see Couch cut the line, but he witnessed the horrific aftermath unfold.

“I didn’t observe what exactly he’s doing, but when exactly he cut the rope it all kind of, like …fragmented,” he said, describing the confusion. “That situation was crazy. But obviously, whatever he was doing, it was concerning for all of us.”

Pedro Echarte, III, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys who works for the Haggard Law Firm in Coral Cables, told the Miami Herald/ that the complaint was amended to include Captain Pip’s is because the boat was based and launched from there.

Captain Pip’s didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment. It was not immediately clear if the business had legal counsel. A woman who answered the phone at the resort replied repeatedly, “We don’t offer parasailing,” when asked about the lawsuit.

The resort advertised on social media, its website and in brochures as if it operated the parasailing operation, instead of it being run by a third party, Echarte said. The family used the self-described resort connection in its research to find a reputable parasail operator to hire for the trip, he said.

“Obviously, this was far from the truth,” Echarte said.