BRADENTON BEACH — A propeller hub failure caused the 28-foot commercial boat Almost Heaven to slow down on June 27, causing a 31-year-old parasailer attached to it to have a shorter-than-expected flight.
But did the failure of the hub — which the U.S. Coast Guard has apparently advised the boat’s owner after an inspection — contribute in any way to the death of South Carolina tourist David Sieradzki who was the parasailer on that fateful flight?
That and other questions remain to be answered in the tragic death of Sieradzki, which occurred about a mile and a half off Longboat Key after he went parasailing with his family and a crew from the Fun N Sun parasailing company out of Bradenton Beach.
On Tuesday, William Diggins, owner/operator of Fun N Sun, said the U.S. Coast Guard has told him that the hub in the propeller of the boat broke, causing the slowdown that led to Sieradzki dropping prematurely into the Gulf of Mexico.
Diggins says that Sieradzki’s trip down was normal, slowed down by the parasail.
The Coast Guard confiscated Almost Heaven after the accident to do a thorough inspection, which revealed that everything but the propeller hub was OK, Diggins said.
A call to the Coast Guard to confirm what Diggins heard was not returned Tuesday afternoon.
“It took them just two hours to figure out what caused the boat to lose power,” Diggins said Tuesday from a marina in Bradenton Beach. “We have the boat back now and we expect to be taking clients out parasailing again sometime this week.”
But like many others, Diggins still wants to know officially why Sieradzki died.
Because of that, he and his wife, Heather, have held off resuming their parasailing business during July even thought they have their boat back.
“We’ve been sending our calls to our competitors,” Diggins said.
“We have just felt it was right to wait,” said Heather Diggins, William’s wife. “I think about Mr. Sieradzki’s wife and family and feel for them. We are all waiting to know what happened.”
On Tuesday, Dr. Russell Vega, chief medical examiner for the 12th Judicial Court, said that he hopes to render an opinion on what killed Sieradzki by the end of the week.
“We are waiting for one final piece of information to allow us to complete things, and I hope I will have it this week,” Vega said. On July 1, Vega announced that Sieradzki’s initial autopsy was inconclusive.
Sieradzki, described as a large, muscular, man in very good condition, dropped into the Gulf of Mexico from an undetermined height when the Almost Heaven suddenly lost power.
Several witnesses told authorities that Sieradzki waved to his family members in the boat after he hit the water.
But when he didn’t swim to the boat, crew members from Sun N Fun pulled him in, unconscious and unresponsive. He never regained consciousness despite receiving 20 to 30 minutes of CPR.
Vega declined to get specific Tuesday about whether some late arriving toxicology or microscopic tests held the key to understanding if Sieradzki drowned, suffered cardiac arrest, succumbed to some kind of bodily trauma, or perhaps had a reaction from some drug in his system.
“It’s easier to wait until we finalize things,” Vega said. “When I have everything complete I will be happy to discuss the case in detail.”
There were actually two agencies conducting separate reports on the incident, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission investigation on the parasailing death is not finished, Gary Morse, a commission spokesman, said Monday.
Although the U.S. Coast Guard did not return a phone call Tuesday, Morse indicated that his agency and the Coast Guard are working together and the reports will probably be released at about the same time.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.