Parasail company: 'We never left injured riders'

cconley@islandpacket.comApril 14, 2012 

The boat involved in a March 9 parasailing accident near Hilton Head Island docked at the nearest available landing and never "left the scene," according to the company's owner.

Matt Williams, owner of Palmetto Bay Parasail, also said a crew member swam to meet the two injured riders, and stayed until after paramedics brought them to the hospital.

"We didn't leave until we were sure the passengers involved were safe," Williams said Friday in response to claims by a Hilton Head Fire & Rescue Division battalion chief that the parasailing boat was not on scene when emergency crews arrived.

Williams added that the parasailing boat docked just a few hundred feet away from the injured pair, who came to rest on Deer Island in Sea Pines.

The man and woman, Tennessee residents visiting the area, were parasailing in Calibogue Sound at about 3 p.m. that day when the rigging snapped in a heavy wind gust. The two victims, who have not been identified, suffered cuts and bruises, and another person on the boat suffered a rope burn after trying to grab the runaway line.

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident, but the agency's report is expected to focus on safety recommendations rather than sanctions against the operator.

Division battalion chief Mick Mayers suggested in an interview with The Island Packet this week that the parasailing boat was gone when paramedics arrived.

"Once the boat left the scene, we had no idea what was going on," Mayers said. "I don't know why they left -- that's up to the Coast Guard to deal with."

Mayers acknowledged in a follow-up interview that a parasail crew member was with the victims when paramedics arrived, and that the parasail boat had docked somewhere nearby. But he stood by his earlier comments that the boat's crew weren't directly on scene.

Williams says Mayers' comments make it look like his company abandoned the injured duo.

"I think Chief Mayers is splitting hairs. He said the boat wasn't on scene. Well, we couldn't have been on scene because it was on land. The boat was at the closest dock," WIlliams said.

Williams said he has remained in contact with the victims since the accident, and that both are expected to make a full recovery. The victims have so far not threatened to sue, he said.

Williams said his company bought a new safety device the day after the accident that would prevent a similar incident from happening again. The device acts as an anchor to prevent riders from being dragged by the kite should the tow rope snap.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related content:

Couple injured in Sea Pines parasailing accident, 03/09/12

Investigation into Hilton Head parasailing accident continues, 04/11/12

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