The captain of a vessel involved in a fatal parasailing accident outside Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas in 2011 has pleaded guilty, and the owner of the vessel has pleaded no contest, to charges under the Seaman’s Manslaughter Act.
Capt. Kyle Coleman, 33, pleaded guilty to operating the motor vessel, Turtle, in a negligent manner, thereby causing the death of a passenger while on a parasailing excursion. CWS Tours, which owned the vessel, acknowledged that it was negligent with respect to the vessel.
According to the plea, Coleman was captain of the Turtle at the time it was conducting parasailing excursions south of Water Island on Nov. 15, 2011, when passenger Bernice G. Kraftcheck was killed. Kraftcheck and her daughter, Danielle Haese, were hoisted into the air for the parasail ride as wind conditions were deteriorating. The strong winds and a weak towline caused the towline to break, resulting in the parasail separating from the vessel and the two women falling into the water. The wind then propelled the parasail, with the women still attached, at a high rate of speed, causing the death of Kraftcheck and serious injuries to Haese.
Coleman faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, plus restitution to the victims. CWS Tours faces a maximum penalty of five years probation and a $250,000 fine, plus restitution to the victims. Sentencing is set for Sept. 12.