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VACATION TURNS TRAGIC

While on a summer vacation at a popular beach area on the Gulf Coast of Florida, a family from Mississippi met with tragedy when the father and his daughter were on a parasail ride.  The two were a few hundred feet in the air and about a half-mile offshore, being towed along by a power boat, when the weather suddenly changed.  A violent thunderstorm struck with high winds that produced very rough waves in just seconds.  The boat capsized, causing the tow-line to break.  The sail keeping the two airborne collapsed, sending them into the churning Gulf waters where they both perished.

A suit was filed against the company that operated the parasail ride by the surviving family members.  The claim alleged that the operator was negligent in allowing the ride to happen in the face of changing weather conditions.  At pre-trial hearings, defense attorneys presented evidence in the form of climatological normals and averages.  This data summarized the frequency and likelihood of thunderstorms in that section of Florida during the month of January.  The data showed that thunderstorms, and in particular severe storms, did not frequently happen at that time of the year and because of this, defense claimed that the parasail ride company could not have reasonably expected this type of weather to occur and thus, was not at fault.  The attorney representing the family contacted CompuWeather.

The forensic meteorologist assigned to the case began his research by examining the weather which occurred on the day of the tragic event.  Doppler radar imagery showed that the thunderstorm had formed about 90 minutes prior to hitting the beach area.  It had developed out over the Gulf of Mexico and then intensified as it moved closer to the beach.  With prior notice being a key point in this matter, the meteorologist then researched what had been forecast for the day.  Forecasts indicated the possibility of thunderstorms for that afternoon.  In addition, 45 minutes before the time of the accident, The National Weather Service (NWS) had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area, specifically because of that thunderstorm cell.  At deposition, the CompuWeather meteorologist stated that anyone monitoring an inexpensive NOAA Weather Radio or even just a local radio station would have heard this warning.  Had personnel of the parasail company heard this advisory, there would have been ample time to stop the ride and bring the father and daughter safely back to shore.

The matter never went to trial, as a seven-figure settlement was agreed upon.