Lawrenceville Woman's Death Spurs New Calls for Parasailing Oversight

8:27 PM, Sep 13, 2010   |    comments
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Alejandra White died from parasailing injuries.

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA -- Those who knew her describe 27-year-old Alejandra White as a loving person, a joy to work with.

Alex, as they called her, had been a chiropractic assistant at the North Atlanta Chiropractic clinic on Lawrenceville's Pleasant Hill Road for the past three years.

None of her coworkers would go on camera Monday, but they showed 11Alive News a memorial display they've set up to honor her at the clinic.

"We had hoped to help plan her wedding," one coworker said, "but now we'll be going to her funeral instead."

"The lady was coming down in a parasailer and this wind picked up real fast and they were trying to pull her back out, but she came down and hit the ground. She actually wrapped around the poll and hit the dirt."

That description from an eyewitness described the parasailing tragedy that ended up taking Alex White's life in Clearwater Beach, FL.

She and her 31-year-old boyfriend, Shaun Ladd, were in the parasail together on the Sunday before Labor Day when a strong thunderstorm came up.

After the tether line to the boat broke, Ladd managed to get free of his harness and hit the water, but he was unable to help free Alex.

The out-of-control parasail dragged her on shore, slamming her into several objects on the beach including a volleyball net post.

She died this past Saturday after six days in the hospital.

"We'll be looking to see if there's any negligent action taken by the parasail operations or the operator," said Capt. Roger Young of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

They are the main agency investigating the incident for any possible state boating violations.

The U.S. Coast Guard can also impose up to $40,000 in fines for federal boating violations and possibly take away the boat captain's license, according to Coast Guard Lt. Christian Barger.

The investigation is expected to take about six to eight weeks to complete.

According to the website Parasail.org, the industry experienced 384 accidents, 83 serious injuries and 28 deaths from 1980 through 2009 in the U.S. and its territories.

But the parasailing business is basically unregulated.

It has its own professional association, PAPO, the Professional Association of Parasail Operators.

PAPO displays a warning on its website from the U.S. Coast Guard that parasailing should not be done if a storm system is within 7 miles, if winds are above 20 MPH or if wind gusts are dangerous.

But that warning is just a voluntary suggestion.

According to Florida Wildlife officials, high winds are considered the most likely cause of the accident that claimed Alex White.

Some other parasail operators at Clearwater Beach had apparently stopped operations as the Sept. 5th storm approached.

Sky Screamer Parasail has still not commented on why its boat operator, Derek Lombardi, took Alex White and Shaun Ladd out anyway.

According to the St. Petersburg Times' website, tampabay.com, former Florida State Senator Jim Sebesta (R-St. Petersburg) tried to introduce tougher legislation from 2003 to 2006.

His bill would have prohibited parasailing in wind gusts over 22 MPH, but it failed for lack of support.

Alex White's death has renewed the call for more oversight of the parasailing industry, particularly from many of her coworkers.

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