FORT LAUDERDALE - Members of Amber White's family came Monday to say goodbye, as they gave up hope the 15-year-old girl would recover from injuries suffered in a parasailing accident over the weekend off Pompano Beach.
"She's passed on," said James Day, Amber's stepfather, seated in the dimly lit seventh-floor waiting room of the pediatric intensive care unit at Broward General Medical Center. "She was declared clinically dead Sunday at about 6 p.m. She's still on life support, just to say goodbye."
The hospital later Monday removed Amber from life support and declared her dead, said administrative supervisor Tony Tutterow.
As Day spoke, another family member was on a cell phone giving directions to relatives trying to find the hospital from Interstate 95. Amber's mother, Shannon Kraus, was by her child's bed down the hall, he said. Amber's 16th birthday is Sunday.
"We're going ahead to donate her organs to other children they could save," Day said, with tears in his eyes.
Her sister Crystal White, 17, who was also injured Saturday, was released Monday from North Broward Medical Center.
As the girls, visiting from Summerfield near Ocala, parasailed off Pompano Beach on a blustery Saturday afternoon, strong gusts carried them toward shore, dragged them across the roof of a hotel building and into some palm trees. At some point during the ordeal, the tow rope broke.
About 40 minutes before the boat set out, the National Weather Service had issued a notice to boaters of off-shore thunderstorms and high winds heading toward a section of coast that included Pompano Beach.
The captain, Scott Kipp, 26, may face charges in the accident, according to an initial incident report released Monday by the Broward Sheriff's Office. The report blames "careless/reckless" operation, equipment failure and weather. An unspecified charge is listed as pending, while the investigation continues.
Reached by phone, Kipp said, "I don't really have any comment on that." He referred questions to his lawyer, Rod Coleman, who could not be reached despite three messages.
The report said the boat was owned by Island Waves Parasailing, which lists a post office box in Palm Beach Gardens. According to state records, Island Waves Parasailing is a registered trade name owned by Waterfront License Corp., also with a Palm Beach Gardens P.O. box.
The president of that company is Anthony P. Aiello, 41, of North Palm Beach, according to state corporation records. He was arrested July 12 and jailed for 11 days for failing to appear in court to face charges of retail theft and possession of drug paraphernalia, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said.
The Coast Guard had reported the boat was operated by Pompano Beach Water Sports, of which Aiello is vice president, state records show.
Aiello could not be reached for comment Monday, despite attempts by phone and a visit to his home in North Palm Beach.
The parasailing businesses that dot Florida's tourist beaches operate with few regulations. Last year then-state Sen. Jim Sebesta, R-St. Petersburg, introduced a bill that would have required parasailing companies to obtain licenses, suspend operations when weather turns bad, obtain insurance, meet vessel safety standards, carry a marine radio, stay at least 2,000 feet from shore and meet several other safety standards. The bill died in committee.
Sebesta introduced it after two parasailing accidents on Florida's west coast. In 2001, a mother and daughter from Kentucky were killed after their line snapped in stormy weather, dropping them into the waters off Fort Myers. In 2004, two 15-year-old girls were carried into a power line off Bradenton Beach after their line broke free. They were rescued.
In his interview with detectives, Kipp said the winds suddenly increased from 15 mph to 40 mph, the Sheriff's Office report said. The hydraulic winch on the boat, used to wound and reel in the tow rope, was not strong enough to bring the parachute down.
The wind pulled the boat toward shore, according to the report, and the two girls were up in the air for about two minutes. The parachute then spun "out of control" and the tow line broke, the report states. It carried the girls atop the two-story Beachcomber Resort and Villas building and through several trees in the courtyard.
Crystal White came to Broward General on Monday, where she learned about her sister Amber's condition.
"She didn't take it very well," her stepfather said. "They're all they've got."
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