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Parasailer drowned

By Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

Stephanie and David Sieradzki. David Sieradzki, 31, died June 27. He was parasailing about 1.5 miles off the coast of Longboat Key when the boat’s motor malfunctioned and he made an emergency landing in the Gulf of Mexico. Islander Photo: Courtesy

Almost Heaven, the parasailing boat, is parked on a trailer at the U.S. Coast Guard post in Cortez. Both the Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are investigating the death of a man who was parasailing from Almost Heaven on June 27. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

The medical examiner determined last week that the death of a South Carolina parasailer June 27 was accidental, caused by drowning.

District 12 Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega released Aug. 26 his findings in the investigation into the death of David Richard Sieradzki, 31, an IT expert from Fountain Inn, S.C., who died June 27.

“The death occurred following a mechanical failure of the boat engine and Mr. Sieradzki’s descent into the water,” read a statement from the ME. “The cause of death was determined to be drowning. The manner of death was determined to be an accident.”

Sieradzki, his wife Stephanie and several others had taken the parasailing cruise on the Almost Heaven, a 28-foot vessel operated by Fun N Sun Parasailing out of the Bradenton Beach Marina. Stephanie Sieradzki went up first on the parasail, followed by David Sieradzki.

According to Fun N Sun, the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife, the out-drive on the boat failed, causing the propeller to stop turning and the boat to abruptly slow.

“It was able to make a bare-steerage way,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Peter Martin, deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg.

The line slackened and Sieradzki, who was wearing a life vest, came down, landing in the water about 400 feet from the boat. The boat was about 1.5 miles off the coast of Longboat Key.

Witnesses told investigators that Sieradzki waved as he touched down.        But at some point, Sieradzki became unresponsive. The crew pulled him to the boat, which took about two to three minutes. By then, Sieradzki was unconscious, with a faint pulse.

The Almost Heaven crew began CPR and sent out a distress call via VHF radio at 5:30 p.m.

A 25-foot response boat crew from Coast Guard Station Cortez launched and arrived to aid Almost Heaven. The Coast Guard crew transferred Sieradzki and his wife to its boat, where CPR was performed on the man on the way to the Coquina Bayside boat ramp in Bradenton Beach.

Upon arriving at the boat ramp, Coast Guard crewmembers continued to perform CPR on Sieradzki until the arrival of the EMS crew, which also performed CPR before pronouncing Sieradzki dead.

The medical examiner’s initial review of the death was inconclusive.

Sieradzki was known to be a good swimmer and was wearing a life vest. So the ME looked into additional risk factors that might result in drowning.

“Physical injury, inclement weather and drug intoxication were excluded, as was incapacitation by a marine animal,” read Vega’s statement.

Additionally, the Coast Guard found the parasailing equipment in good order, and there was no evidence that Sieradzki became tangled in ropes, the harness or the parachute.

The ME’s statement continued, “Unconsciousness from a medical condition or concussion is a reasonable explanation for how the drowning could occur in the absence of the above described risk factors.”

There was no evidence of a concussion, but the ME did observe a medical condition — Sieradzki had a mildly enlarged heart.

“Enlarged hearts are known to be at risk for heart arrhythmias,” the ME stated. “A heart arrhythmia may cause unconsciousness and could be precipitated by stress.”

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