Fatal parasailing accident hearings: Day 1

Chester Warren
Chester Warren
Barrett McMullan
Barrett McMullan

Reported by Lynda Figueredo - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

OCEAN ISLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - The Coast Guard is holding three days of formal hearings in regards to a fatal parasailing accident that happened in Ocean Isle Beach in August.

Coast Guard investigators are trying to determine what happened the day a rope connecting the parasail to the boat disconnected and killed two women.

The crew of the parasailing vessel, "Tied High," several passengers, and a National Weather Service representative have been called to give statements in the hearings.

Barrett McMullan, the owner of the parasailing operation involved in the accident, was the first to testify Wednesday morning.

He retold the events that led up to the deaths of Cynthia Woodcock of Kernersville and Lorrie Shoup of Colorado August 28.

McMullan said he received a panic call from the captain of the boat the day of the accident.  He said the crew made tremendous efforts, but couldn't help the situation.  They said a gust of wind caught the parachute causing the vessel to take on water.

According to McMullan, the tow rope cut loose, so the captain and First Mate Christopher Eckert tried to chase down the parachute to rescue the women.  After various attempts it was too late.

McMullan says he routinely checks his equipment to ensure safety, and his crew could not prevent what happened that day.

"Call it a freak weather event, [it was] unforeseeable - caught us off guard, caught them by surprise," said McMullan.

The Coast Guard will continue to collect testimony from the crew of the boat, other passengers, and the National Weather Service.

They will forward their findings to a panel in Washington D.C., which will determine whether the government should implement safety regulations for the parasailing industry.

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