Conn. Woman's Parasailing Death Raises Questions About Unregulated Sport

Kathleen Miskell fell about 200 feet to her death due to a harness malfunction.

ByABC News
August 17, 2012, 10:19 AM

Aug. 17, 2012 — -- The family of a Connecticut woman who died parasailing with her husband while on vacation in Florida is reeling from the loss of a young woman with a passion for volunteer work and a deep love for her family. And many are questioning why parasailing is virtually unregulated by federal or Florida state laws.

Kathleen Miskell, 28, was on vacation with her husband Stephen Miskell, 31, in Pompano Beach, Fla., on Wednesday when the couple decided to go parasailing. They took part in an excursion run by WaveBlast Water Sports.

They were parasailing in tandem when Kathleen Miskell's harness broke and she plummeted about 200 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, according to Pompano Beach spokeswoman Sandra King.

The parasail boat operator reeled in Stephen Miskell, and his wife was found face down in the water. They called 911 and CPR attempts in the boat were unsuccessful. She was in cardiac arrest and transported to Broward Health North in critical condition. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"She was really a very good girl and she was a wonderful wife and sister and daughter and cousin," Kathleen Miskell's sister Erin Mulcahy told through tears. "We're about as close as any sisters could get. She was my best friend."

Mulcahy, 30, said that she and her sister talked every day, multiple times a day, and also texted often.

"She was texting me the whole time she was down there," Mulcahy said. "They were having fun. They were on vacation."

Mulcahy said her sister had never been parasailing before, but was excited to try it. Miskell was passionate about volunteering and had spent time volunteering at an orphanage in Honduras and with Habitat for Humanity.

"She was the kindest soul that walked the earth and she was very loving, always there for anybody," Mulcahy said. "She loved her family and she loved the world...I don't think she's ever done anything wrong in her life."

Kathleen and Stephen Miskell had been married four nearly three years and were very happy, Mulcahy said.

"He's absolutely in shock and heartbroken," Mulcahy said of her brother-in-law.

Officials have said the accident was caused by an equipment malfunction. WaveBlast Water Sports did not respond to a request for comment.

The accident has revived the discussion about why parasailing is not regulated by state or federal laws.

In 2007, 15-year-old Amber White died in a Pompano Beach parasailing accident when her parasail rope broke and she and her sister slammed into a building. Her sister survived.

"As a result of that, the city said, 'We need to look into who is regulating this industry,' and quickly found out that no one is," King, the city spokeswoman, told "There's no one to check the equipment, no one to inspect them...nothing."

The town proposed a resolution in 2007 asking Florida legislators to adopt regulations for the sport, but it failed in an early committee hearing.

"It fell on deaf ears, basically," King said. She added that had the legislation been passed, "Maybe this young lady would be alive to enjoy the experience of their vacation, but, instead, this is what happened."

Right now, the only requirements for parasailing are the U.S. Coast Guard's approval of the vessel and a boating license. The equipment directly associated with the recreational sport--the harness, the parasail chutes, any towlines--are not regulated.

King said that Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher has already contacted congressmen and state representatives and plans on contacting other city agencies and mayors to really push the issue.