Couple injured in Sea Pines parasailing accident

tbarton@islandpacket.comMarch 9, 2012 

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A man and woman parasailing off Hilton Head Island were cut and bruised Friday after their tow line was snapped by high winds and they were dragged through a marsh in Sea Pines. Authorities said the couple were in the air being pulled by a Palmetto Bay Parasail boat in Calibogue Sound, at the island's south end, when a gust of wind snapped their rigging.

"They had a good gust of wind and they were reeling them in when another gust snapped their rigging and a bracket," Sea Pines Security Lt. R. Woods said.

A woman onboard the boat grabbed the line, but it slipped through her hands, causing burns, he said.

The couple, believed to be in their 20s or 30s, were dragged through the marsh near Deer Island Road, Woods said.

"Luckily, they didn't go through any oyster beds," he said. "It was a soft landing, you might say. No major injuries."

Sea Pines resident Susan LeMehaute said she was painting her house at about 3:30 p.m. when the wind "kicked up really quickly."

"I was watching the parasailors, and it looked like they were struggling a little bit," LeMehaute said. "It was blowing at least 35 knots."

She said as she went to grab a package being delivered to her home that she saw the couple's chute coming across the marsh.

"I dropped the package, ran to the marsh and called 911," LeMehaute said. "I got to the woman and held her head and told her she'd be OK."

She said the couple were conscious and able to move, and didn't appear to be seriously injured. However, they were "pretty banged up and in shock."

The couple and the woman on the boat were taken by ambulance to Hilton Head Hospital for treatment, according to Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division spokeswoman Joheida Fister.

Fister said the U.S. Coast Guard and S.C. Department of Natural Resources are investigating.

Attempts Friday to reach Coast Guard, DNR and Palmetto Bay Parasail representatives were unsuccessful.

A line of showers moved through the area at the time of the mishap with recorded wind gusts of 30 to 35 mph at Hilton Head Island Airport. The National Weather Service in Charleston issued a statement at 4 p.m. for mariners advising the showers were moving southeast near Hilton Head and were capable of producing high winds.

"It was a situation that could not really be predicted well. There was no thunder or anything else associated with it," said meteorologist Steven Taylor.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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