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Boat captain charged in fatal parasailing trip off Florida Keys

A Florida Keys boat captain has been arrested on manslaughter charges in connection with the parasailing death of an Illinois woman back in May. Two children, including the woman's son, were also injured in the incident. 

Authorities arrested 49-year-old Daniel Gavin Couch Thursday on one felony count of manslaughter in the death of 33-year-old Supraja Alaparthi, and five misdemeanor counts of violation of commercial parasailing statutes, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said in a news release Thursday. 

FWC South Bravo Regional Commander Major Alberto Maza said Couch showed a "negligence and disregarded for public safety" when he took a group of 12 people, including Alaparthi, her 10-year-old son Sriakshith Alaparthi, and his 9-year-old friend Vishant Sadda, out on the boat on May 30.

A cell phone image taken just prior to a parasailing accident in the Florida Keys on May 30, 2022, that claimed the life of one woman and left two children injured. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Couch did not check weather conditions prior to departing the Marathon Marina, or follow parasailing regulations, according to the FWC. 

The three victims, all of whom were from Schaumburg, Illinois, were the second group of passengers to parasail that day. However, strong winds prevented the boat's winch from bringing them back onto the boat. Couch then cut the parasail's line, dropping Supraja and the two children from an unknown height, the FWC said.  

According to the arrest warrant, Couch and his crew member made attempts to catch and deflate the detached chute, but he was unable to secure the parasail. After the failed attempts to deflate the chute, the three victims were dragged through the water before they collided with a concrete pillar at Old Seven Mile Bridge, the FWC said. 

As the parasail chute was hanging over the bridge, the boat captain did not offer assistance even as family members on the boat begged him to help, the FWC said. Instead, a group of three people in another boat who witnessed the incident came to the aid to the victims. 

The three good Samaritans cut the three victims from their harness and placed them on their boat, according to the arrest warrant. They then performed CPR on Supraja Alaparthi and Sadda while transporting them to a nearby restaurant.

Supraja Alaparthi, however, was pronounced dead at the scene, the arrest warrant states. Sadda was airlifted to a Miami hospital. Supraja's son, Sriakshith, was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries. 

Maza said there was "no excuse" for Couch's actions that day.

"My prayers go out to the families of those involved in this terrible accident," Maza said in a statement. "Our investigators conducted a thorough investigation, and the charges today hold those responsible for this tragedy accountable."

A judge set Couch's bond at $100,000.    

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