Celebrity Cruises Passenger Killed in Parasailng Accident in St. Thomas

A news source in the U.S. Virgin Islands reports that two passengers from the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship were involved in a serious parasailing accident on Tuesday in St. Thomas.

The incident occurred late Tuesday afternoon while the passengers were on an excursion.  One of the passengers died, and the other was seriously injured and remains hospitalized.

There are comments from an online cruise community suggesting that the deceased passengers was celebrating  her 60th birthday and her daughter was the one seriously injured.     

Celebrity Cruises Parasailing Accident - St. ThomasCelebrity Cruises advertises parasailing "400 feet over St. Thomas" on its website.  You can watch's Celebrity's brief  video about parasailing in St. Thomas here which describes the excursion as an "experience of a lifetime." 

A number of agencies are apparently involved in the investigation into this incident, including the Virgin Islands Police Department, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Last year we reported on the death of a Carnival cruise passenger parasailing in Cozumel during an excursion. 

 if you know how the accident occurred, please leave a comment below.

November 17, 2011 Update:

Caribbean Water Sports and Tours - Parasailing DeathThe Virgin Islands Daily News published an article this evening stating that "squalls and wind gusts Tuesday afternoon may have factored into the death of Bernice Kraftcheck, 60, and the serious injury of her daughter Danielle Haese, 34, who was hospitalized overnight at Schneider Hospital." 

The mother and daughter purchased a parasailing shore-excursion from Celebrity Cruises which was conducted by Caribbean Watersports and Tours.  The excursion company conducted the parasailing trip aboard the 31-foot powerboat Turtle.  The newspaper reports that two crew members operated the Turtle, which was carrying five passengers. 

"All parasailing shore excursions in the Caribbean have been cancelled indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation," said Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez.

Cruise lines face legal liability when they fail to vet the safety policies and procedures of the excursion companies which the cruise lines select to do business with. 

For example, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Summit cruise ship were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica.  We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident.  Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

December 3, 2011 Update:

Coast Guard Continues to Investigate St. Thomas Parasailing Accident

 

Photo credit:  Celebrity Cruises

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Comments (27) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
david - November 17, 2011 7:50 PM

There is only 1 parasail company in St. Thomas. They service all of the cruise lines as well as all of the resorts on the island. The names of the boats are, Just Chute Me, Airgasm, and Turtle. Never have really seen a name of the company? So unfortunate that this has happened as they are a great group of captains and mates that run the operation.

Sara - November 17, 2011 8:39 PM

The name of the company was Caribbean Watersports and Tours. It is owned by Joe Campana. First thing that should be noted is that Caribbean Watersports was operating WITHOUT a Business Certificate from St Thomas and was also operating WITHOUT insurance. Most of the boats from this tour operator are maintained on a substandard basis. The ropes are not replaced at recommended intervals, the chutes are not repaired by a reputable parasail manufacturer, nor are his captains given drug tests. Many times his boats can be seen at anchor with the crew drinking and smoking pot between trips.

The plus side here is that only one passenger was killed instead of 3 or 4. If a complete and thorough investigation is done this dangerous and unsafe company might be shut down before another tragedy strikes.

Julie - November 17, 2011 10:39 PM

Sara,
I'm appauled at your statement "it was only 1 life lost". It doesn't matter. Those people are my family and Danielle, the daughter, is hanging on for dear life after having brain surgery and is still in a coma. How dare you disrespect any human life.

SameExcursion - November 18, 2011 7:57 AM

I was on the Eclipse on the same cruise. MY GF and i took a parasailing excursion on same day in ST Thomas with the same company. Our boat got about 15 minutes out from the beach and broke down entirely. We were stranded on the open water for more than an hour. My first reaction was that clearly Celebrity does not monitor quality of the experience, since the captain and mate kept talking about how often their boats broke down etc. I resolved to report this to Celebrity but after this tragedy, i am afraid i have nothing of substance to add to the dialog. I will wait for the investigation to draw conclusions, but i strongly believe the parasailing company will be shown to be negligent and any honest accounting of the excursion operator would show Celebrity to be negligent too. I hate to say this because i am a big fan of Celebrity but i believe this to be true.

STT Resident - November 18, 2011 12:27 PM

First of all, this is a tragedy that many are suffering from and my heart goes out to all involved. I worked at a tour desk that booked this excursion for over 15 years and I can say that this company does have insurance - very good insurance and are licensed. They have been nothing but professional in the 15+ years we worked with them. I know that the owner is extremely distraught. I would hope that everyone could reserve judgement since none of us have all of the facts and not get caught up in the finger pointing game. The focus should be on supporting the family.

Sara - November 18, 2011 4:03 PM

After the accident two of the parasailing companys other boats came to aid the injured people. Since there was a death ALL the crew and captains were given drug tests! Out of 6 people 5 FAILED!!!!!!! What does that tell you?

KSH - November 18, 2011 8:50 PM

"Sara", where in the world are you getting your facts from? And what gives you the right to capitalize on this awful tragedy by spreading inaccuracies? So malicious. How dare you even spew that the plus side of all this is that only one life was lost... that guest was a precious life and everyone is hurting over her death.
I've worked with Caribbean Parasail for years and can tell you that this is a top notch company, in business for 20+ years. They are one of the few that actually have a safety consortium, practice emergency drills, and are required to have licenses and a hefty amount of liability insurance by the cruise lines. They have parasailed (I believe they may be the largest operator in the country) an enormous amount of volume throughout the years and have never had a tragedy like this in their history. STTResident, I agree with you. The owner is very distraught and is doing everything he can to aid in the investigation. He will never be the same again.
Our prayers are with the entire family and Danielle, who we hope is able to recover from her injuries. This is all just so awful.

Sara - November 19, 2011 8:57 AM

First of all they are NOT the largest operator in the country. Second they are not a top notch company. Third a very large portion of their employees would not be able to pass a drug test. I’m sure the owner is distraught. I would be too, as would be anyone who was responsible for someone’s death. That’s right. Let’s get it straight. The owner WAS RESPONSIBLE for that accident. It was his company and it was his responsibility to make sure his boats were maintained properly and he had a competent and drug free workforce.
I also am saddened that someone lost their life and by that fact that another person lost someone that they loved. I’m not forgetting that the survivor may never be the same again. I think before anyone takes a firm stance on defending the owner and his company we should let ALL the facts come out. If in fact he did have a current business license and valid insurance that would go a long way in the decision as to what direction the authorities should go. If not than certainly a jail sentence would be appropriate.

S-Town - November 19, 2011 12:19 PM

Wow....it is really painfully obvious that "Sara" has some sort of personal grudge against the company/owner.

KSH - November 19, 2011 2:39 PM

Sara you clearly have a hidden agenda. The point you chose to highlight first (that CP is not the biggest operator in the country) is just pitiful. But good for you in backpeddling some of your insensitivity about the death of Mrs.Kraftcheck since this is what the focus of all our attention should be on.
Also it takes about 2 days for drug test results to come back so I would value knowing how you were privy to 5 of the employees not passing the test when all parties involved (the family, owner, insurance company, U.S.COAST GUARD) were still awaiting results when you were typing this.
When you own a company and something like this happens then yes you are accountable for all incidents and accidents that take place under your watch. If you read my prior post, I was never disputing that. The question here is if negligence was a factor and that is what the ongoing investigation is trying to determine. If equipment failure, operator negligence, and/or weather were factors in this accident.
I'm not defending this company...you are just so irrelevant and off in this case Sara that I'm compelled to diffuse come of your venom.
Julie, we continue to pray for your family.

Miranda - November 19, 2011 3:14 PM

First off, I personally know one of the guys running the Turtle.. So pointing fingers is not necessary. There are faults for everything in this situation. Maybe the owner should have handled business a little better about his employees and boats. But then again when you parasail, you sign papers.. And I would know this considering I worked for a parasail company three years with one of the guys who were on the Turtle. When you sign papers, "you are signing your life away." Parasailing is not dangerous. I've done it multiple times in my life. But before anyone starts criticizing MY friend, get your facts together.

nancy - November 20, 2011 8:56 AM

my husband and myself were speaking with danielle and her mom before the accident as they were waiting to go. They were in good spirits and our hearts are extremely broken in regards to this.

KWO - November 20, 2011 9:33 AM

These are the opinions of the author only and not representative of any other agency or organization:

The most common failure leading to death or injury are rope breaks. You can have a very strong rope and it still fails. One of the most common causal factor is the strength of the rope and lack of safety factor built into it. Operators ignore wind speeds, the rope gets overloaded and breaks. The ropes break at far lower values then their design strengths. Simply adding a knot to a line reduces the strength almost 50% and lab testing has proven this with old and even new ropes. (It is a well known fact in the cordage industry.) The second factor is that when the wind speed doubles the load on the parasail and towline quadruples which then overloads the rope. This is a mathematic­al formula.Sa­y you have a rope that's rated for 8000 lbs. Once tied to the harness it's effective strength is about 4000 lbs. Now take a parachute that at 10 mph wind speed against the chute causes a load of 1500lbs. When the wind picks up to 20 mph the load the load is nearly 6000 lbs and the line is likely to break. Those are just base numbers that the operator has no clue about. There are other variables including the size of the chutes, passenger loads etc,,,Ther­e has been five or six recent deaths.

Passengers should not go out if they know the weather is going to change or if storms or fronts are nearby. Some operators will take risks putting the riders lives at danger for the sake of making money.

bruce k - November 20, 2011 9:59 AM

A lot of comments about liability but not one fact about what actually happened. Every comment is either emotional (not without reason) or opinion. How about some information from someone who KNOWS something.

kwo - November 20, 2011 6:43 PM

bruce - my own opinion... read my post again. the rope broke likely because it was overloaded. and likely because the weather kicked up according to a news article. this happens all the time.

Martin - November 20, 2011 9:29 PM

If it happens all the time maybe it's not so safe. If the rope is not designed for the stress that's being put on it maybe the Parasail operators should use a different rope. If this happens all the time how come we never hear about it?

DL - November 21, 2011 5:54 AM

I would like to send my condolences and prayers to the family and friends on their loss and on this tragic accident.
I would like to state the obvious and the FACTS for Sara: first off this company would have and does have insurance in order to have a contract with different cruiselines and major hotels....along with certain requirements and safety training to operate. Secondly, this company has been operating for over 15 years and have never had a fatal accident. If you check past records with other cruise lines they have cancelled excursions due to rough seas and high winds even though they might of had over a hundred people that day because no dollar is worth someone's life or safety! Unfortunately some things are out of people's hands for instance that day with wind if you look up the wind meter of that day it was blowing 10-15 miles roughly which is great parasailing conditions but that afternoon anyone on island or out in the water can say that the weather went from nice to scary in a matter of seconds gusting to 40 miles out of the blue and then calm right back down.
For someone who seems to have all the facts you actually have alot of stuff wrong like the drug tests, it just intrigues me that you say they failed when in fact the captains/investigators etc don't even have those results even up to today ... snd what disturbs me more is the fact that you say how these captains are drinking and smoking while on the job, which for fact again is FALSE, but to twist things up let's say it was true if you had this type of information don't you think you should of reported this and if you had done it that this accident might of not took place so I think if this information was true you should be accountable for withholding such valuable information, like I said before IF IT WAS TRUE!

kwo - November 21, 2011 9:25 AM

The following opinion, question or statement is that of the authors and does not represent that of any federal, state or other governmental agency.

DL -if that type of risk occurs in this area - the variable nature of the weather, why then does the parasail operator even consider putting persons lives at risks? Surely this isn't the first time the wind kicked up. Who makes the decisions to go or to no-go?
From your post it almost sounds like the cruse ship does. In the end though it is the very low level licensed captain on the parasail boat that is responsible for everything.

Unfortunately some things are out of people's hands for instance that day with wind if you look up the wind meter of that day it was blowing 10-15 miles roughly which is great parasailing conditions but that afternoon anyone on island or out in the water can say that the weather went from nice to scary in a matter of seconds gusting to 40 miles out of the blue and then calm right back down.

Pj - November 21, 2011 9:58 AM

Ignorance.... Not knowing facts. Sara shame on you. All passed the drug tests.Company fully insured. You obviously have an issue with the owner.

Pj - November 21, 2011 10:35 AM

The APCA drug consortium has verified all 5 employees passed the drug test

Lauren - November 21, 2011 10:00 PM

Sara- Please get your facts straight. First of all, you are correct they did drug/alcohol test all 5 captains, ALL passed. The owner would NEVER let his crew stop the boat to drink and smoke, in fact he has fired people for less than that. The company is liscensed and insured in St. Thomas. This was a horrible freak accident. While I grieve for the family with my whole heart, I feel just the same if not more sadness for the captain of the boat, the first mate and the company's owner. Please take your anger and vendeta against this organization and place it elsewhere. God Bless all of those involved.

Quinn - November 22, 2011 9:15 PM

Sara- witxhout a doubt, you are obviously a competitor or an angry x-employee, who was probably fired by the company of whom you speak so badly of...You are full of nothing but lies...and may God have mercy on you for using this instance to your advantange, or to make a sick person like you feel better about yourself...HOW DARE YOU!!!!! This company, is absolutly one of the "best of the best"...and completely know what they are doing...better than you could ever dream of being..My heart goes out to the family...and i am so sad to hear this, having been in the parasail industry for over 19 years myself now....

Same Excursion - November 23, 2011 1:31 AM

While it is true that the investigation is not done and we should reserve judgement, please read my post above. This company took me and my GF out 2-3 hours earlier and their boat broke down. One of their employees "AJ" brought us another boat after about an hour and fifteen minutes. He fixed the first one we were on and captained it back to the shore at about the same time that the three couples on our replacement boat finished parasailing.

While we do not know exactly what happened, if the first boat were taken out again and stalled to cause this accident then there is very likely negligence as the boat effectively broke down twice on that day. And the captain and crew of our boat said two things that certainly contribute to my feeling that their may be negligence involved:
1)They talked aobut how frequently the boats stall and break down
2)Once the stall happened they kept wishing for some booze on the boat to pass the time. Now they may have been kidding about this but i can tell you both my GF and me felt it was unprofessional and seriously considered skipping the parasailing as we became less and less confident in the crew.

I do want to add that the crew were nice guys and very well meaning, they just were not very professional. I resolved to report this to Celebrity before this tragedy occured so take that for what it is worth as well. I will say that the chute we used that afternoon seemed to be in very good condition so we did not have concerns there.

St. Thomas Resident - November 26, 2011 2:10 PM

Sara - my goodness. All I can say is that your vitriol is very misplaced and watch out for the karma police!!!

SARA's just mad - November 28, 2011 12:13 PM

I personally know the captain, who has been parasailing for over 15 years without incident. He loves what he does and takes his job very seriously. This was a freak accident that could have happened to anyone. Just like "rogue waves" there are rogue wind gusts around the islands. A gust of wind came unexpectedly and snapped the rope. Noone is sure what exactly the cause of death was, they are speculating drowning or impact, but will not know until the autopsy report is in. The company DID have insurance and licenses and the captain was completely qualified to do the job. With activities like this there is a risk for everyone involved. No matter who the captain of the boat was, this could have happened to ANYONE.
Thoughts and prayers to the family and EVERYONE involved, no ones life will be the same.

Anderson Cooper - November 28, 2011 3:54 PM

Sara: You have stated many incorrect things. You know not of what you speak. The company is licensed and insured. Printing inflamatory remarks such as yours does nothing for the injured.

Cathy - December 16, 2011 11:35 PM

We are sorry for the loss of the mother. We have taken the parasail and we loved the experience! I am very cautious but the crew was very kind and informative. It was a misfortune. The winds paid an important part in the accident.

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