“That’s the last thing she told me.”
Flying about 150 feet above the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday in a tandem harness with her husband, Miskell, 28, somehow broke free of her safety restraint about 3:30 p.m. and plummeted into the sea.
Two crew members aboard the tow boat reeled in Stephen Miskell, 31, and circled back to pick up Kathleen, but she could not be revived, said Pompano Fire Rescue spokeswoman Sandra King said.
Stephen Miskell, who remained in Florida on Thursday, was “very distraught, as is the extended family,” said Jorge Pino, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, one of four agencies looking into what happened.
The parasailing company was identified as Wave Blast Water Sports, located in the 1300 block of South Ocean Boulevard in Pompano Beach .
Pino said the investigation was focusing on the equipment. “It was a potential malfunction of the harness,” he said, although there were no immediate signs that it had broken. “We are going to do a methodical check of each part of the harness, parachute and ropes.”
Pino said investigators from the FWC, the Coast Guard and the Broward Sheriff’s Office would look at the operating company “to see if there is a history of violations, but at present that does not seem to be the case.”
The National Transportation Safety Board would also play a role, said Pino.
Parasailing operations are common in South Florida, with costs ranging from $50 to $100 for a ride that usually lasts about 20 minutes. An estimated 70 to 120 commercial parasailing companies operate in Florida, according to the FWC.
It is not for everyone, said Pino. “It is up to each individual to make a decision, weighing the risks and rewards. Some people would like to be 200 feet in the air, seeing the sights, and others would not.”
John McDonald and his family, visiting from St. Louis, were undaunted Thursday. He said he knew about the fatal accident, but decided to take his two daughters, Ali, 6, and Molly, 3, for a ride anyway.
They boarded the Aloha Watersports parasail boat at the Largo Mar Resort and Spa on Fort Lauderdale beach and were up for about 20 minutes.
“My kids have been bugging me about it ever since we’ve been here,” said McDonald. “I told them I did it with my dad when I was a little boy.”
Miskell is the second parasailing tourist to be killed off Pompano Beach in recent years. Amber May White, of Summerfield, near Ocala, was killed in 2007 when the line towing her and her sister snapped in high winds, allowing the girls to be slammed onto the roof of a hotel.
An investigation revealed the operator had ignored a thunderstorm warning.
The industry operates with little regulation from state or federal governments. An analysis prepared for the Florida Legislature showed four people were killed in parasailing accidents in Florida from 2001 to 2011.
Bills in the Legislature to impose safety standards have repeatedly died, including one proposed in this year's session.
That bill would have established safety standards for parasailing gear, required a minimum of $1 million in insurance, prohibited parasailing in hazardous weather and set other standards to protect riders. Both bills died in committee.
“We will look at every aspect of the case, and make a determination if this somehow should be regulated,” said Pino.
“She was just a great, great kid, funny, happy, always trying to help someone else,” said her father, a 68-year-old widower. “You never think you’re going to lose one of your children.”
Erin Mulcahy, 30, her only sibling, called Kathleen “the best sister anyone could have. She was always such a good girl, beautiful inside and out.”The Miskells were in Florida on a week-long vacation to mark the end of summer, staying in a friend’s condominium in Lauderdale-by-the Sea, said her father. She was to report back to work next week.
Kathleen and Stephen Miskell would have marked their third anniversary in October. A native of Ireland , Stephen Miskell runs a tile company that bears the name of his hometown, Galway.
The couple had recently bought a house in Wethersfield , south of Hartford. “They were just getting things going in their lives, fixing up the house they bought,” said Mulcahy.
A 2006 graduate of St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Miskell began step dancing as a young child, and was active with the Irish American Home Society.