Kathleen Miskell, of Wethersfield, Conn., was parasailing in tandem with her husband, Stephen, at about 3:15 p.m. when she fell from her harness and hit the water. Her husband, apparently unhurt, was reeled in by the boat operators, who then circled back to recover his wife, Pompano Fire Rescue spokeswoman Sandra King said.
"She was in cardiac arrest," King said.
Charter boat captain Jed Dooner saw the parasailing boat crew working on the woman.
"There were these two guys and they were pretty distraught," Dooner said.
Kathleen Miskell was taken to North Broward Health Center.
"They were very nice, friendly people," neighbor Kristy Pierce said from Connecticut. "They moved in a few months ago. I actually just brought some cupcakes over to them when they first moved in and they were very excited, very friendly. They invited us over."
The parasailing company was identified as Wave Blast Water Sports, located in the 1300 block of South Ocean Boulevard in Pompano Beach.
This is the second parasailing death off Pompano Beach in recent years. In the summer of 2007, Amber May White, of Summerfield, near Ocala, was parasailing with her sister off Pompano Beach when the line snapped in high winds, allowing the girls to be slammed onto the roof of a hotel. Amber May White died. An investigation revealed that the operator had ignored a thunderstorm warning.
The industry operates with little regulation from state or federal governments. Bills in the state Legislature to impose safety standards have repeatedly failed to win approval.
After the deadly 2007 accident, the Pompano Beach City Commission passed a resolution urging the Legislature to regulate parasailing, Mayor Lamar Fisher said.
"Unfortunately nothing was done and here we are today with another fatal accident," he said. "It's inexcusable that we don't have the ability to inspect the ropes, the boat [and] the harnesses to make sure that when someone takes this opportunity to parasail they can be safe."
In this year's Legislative session, bills in the Florida House and Senate 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.
"It's just inconceivable that the state of Florida's legislators have not done something since we brought it to their attention in 2007," Fisher said.
Four people were killed in parasailing accidents in Florida from 2001 to 2011, according to an analysis prepared for the safety proposals in the state Legislature.
An estimated 70 to 120 commercial parasailing companies operate in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The Federal Aviation Administration classifies them as "kites" and imposes some rules aimed at preventing collisions with aircraft. The Coast Guard licenses captains and inspects boats but does not impose standards on harnesses, towlines or other equipment.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will lead the investigation into Kathleen Miskell's death with assistance from the Coast Guard and theBroward Sheriff's Office, according to FWC spokeswoman Carli Segelson.
She did not rule out criminal charges.
"We do have a homicide investigator," she said. "So boating fatalities could be [ruled] a homicide."
Mark McCulloh, a former parasail operator and manufacturer who founded the Parasail Safety Council, said that from the few facts available so far, Wednesday's accident sounds highly unusual.
Parasailing accidents typically happen when the towline separates in high winds, allowing the rider to be dragged through the water and drowned or slammed into something on land, he said.
"This seems like it was just a normal day, and all of a sudden the lady just fell out of the harness," he said. "This is very bizarre."
He estimated there have been 72 parasailing fatalities in the past 30 years in the United States and its territories