POMPANO BEACH - The impact of the two teenage girls smacking the tree was so forceful that it uprooted the 25-foot coconut palm out of the ground-- and left one child in a coma Sunday.
Critically injured parasailing crash victim Amber White is in the coma at Broward General Medical Center's pediatric intensive care unit, her mother Shannon Kraus said Sunday. Her sister Crystal is in fair condition at North Broward Medical Center, hospital authorities there said.
The sisters, 16 and 17, were vacationing from the Ocala area, said Sandra King, a spokeswoman for Pompano Beach Fire-Rescue. Both were hospitalized in critical condition; one, if not both, suffered life-threatening injuries, including head trauma, King said.
Parasailors slam into building Video
The sisters were visiting Broward County with a family friend, King said.
Their family drove down from their North Florida home after the accident, arriving about 9 p.m. The mother, visibly distraught, asked family members to pray with her as they stood briefly in Broward General Medical Center's emergency room waiting area.
According to King, the girls went parasailing about 1 p.m. under gray skies. As a boat towed them, they were harnessed to a parachute.
The winds grew stronger, and the boat operator decided to head back to shore, officials said.
A gust then pushed the parachute toward land. With the tow rope still connected to the girls' parachute, the teenagers crashed into the second-story roof of the Beachcomber Resort & Villas, at 1200 S. Ocean Blvd., King said.
The tug of the parachute also dragged the boat ashore, the spokeswoman said.
With the parachute still pulled by the wind, the girls were dragged across the resort roof. At some point, the rope broke.
The girls then fell from the building, and caromed from one palm tree to another. They remained entangled in tree foliage until somebody with a knife came to their rescue, cutting the harness and rope to free them.
Paramedics then arrived. One sister was flown by helicopter to the hospital, and the other was taken by ambulance.
The Broward Sheriff's Office was investigating.
"This had to have been an absolute nightmare for these girls," King said. While relatives and friends waited anxiously for their recovery at the hospitals Sunday morning, fire-rescue and hotel grounds workers returned to the seaside Beachcomber Resort and Villas in the 1200 block of South Ocean Blvd., to literally pick up the pieces. Pompano Beach fire-rescue went over the scene, pointing at the shingled second-floor roof where the girls, tangled in the yellow parachute, toppled and were dragged by the wind before leaving them trapped in the palm tree.
Tree cutter Rick Lear said the tree snapped and had to be removed, as he lugged away the stump and branches, one of about a dozen surrounding the Beachcomber's outdoor pool.
"It's a shame," Lear said. "For them to have knocked down that tree, the wind had to be pretty strong. It's basically a freak of nature thing. All we can do is pray for them."
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