Investigations continue in parasailing death

Federal and state investigators continued to look into the death of a South Carolina man who had joined his family June 27 for an evening parasailing adventure in the Gulf of Mexico.

David Richard Sieradzki, 31, an IT expert from Fountain Inn, S.C., was pronounced dead at 5:55 p.m. at a dock on the bayside of Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

For 30 minutes prior, life-saving measures were performed by a Manatee County Emergency Medical Services team, a U.S. Coast Guard rescue crew and the small crew aboard Almost Heaven, a 28-foot vessel operated by Fun N Sun Parasailing out of the Bradenton Beach Marina.

The outing

When Almost Heaven headed out to the Gulf of Mexico that Monday evening there were eight people aboard — two crewmembers, Sieradzki and wife Stephanie and four others.

Stephanie Sieradzki went up first on the parasail.

Then came David Sieradzki’s turn under the sail.

According to Fun N Sun, the Coast Guard and FWC, 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. FWC spokesman Gary Morse said Sieradzki seemed to indicate to those on the boat that he was fine when he landed.

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 and crew from Coast Guard Station Cortez launched and arrived to aid Almost Heaven at 5:48 p.m. 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, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios.

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.

“Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with the friends and families of the deceased,” said Martin.

The investigation

The next morning, Almost Heaven rested on a boat trailer outside the Coast Guard station in Cortez and the Fun N Sun operation was voluntarily closed, with crew and staff mourning the loss.

“We’re all deeply saddened,” said Fun N Sun manager Louis Mandel. “And we’re praying for the family.”

“Our captain, he’s traumatized,” Mandel continued. “He did everything he was supposed to do.… He shot the flares. We had everything on board. They performed CPR nonstop.”

Meanwhile, the investigations continued, with officials saying such reviews generally take months.

Details on the height Sieradzki was at when the engine malfunctioned or how fast he came down were not immediately known.

Also unknown was the cause of death. Manatee County Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega told the press June 30 that the initial autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death and that his office was continuing to investigate. That investigation would include interviews with witnesses, as well as reviews of a battery of pathology tests.

Sieradzki’s family, including his wife, father and sister, returned to South Carolina last week.

Relatives described Sieradzki as outdoorsy, fun loving, adventurous and super nice.

He was born in South Bend, Ind., graduated from ITT Tech and was enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program while also working with students at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind.

Sieradzki’s interests included playing the tuba in his hometown’s Brass Ensemble, rooting for Notre Dame and Clemson teams, playing softball, cooking, hunting and fishing.

A celebration of life took place July 2 in South Carolina.

Sieradzki is survived by his wife, parents Richard and Cindy Sieradzki, paternal grandfather Rich Sieradzki, sisters Erin Sieradzki and Ashleigh Sieradzki, two nieces and a nephew.

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