Settlement reached in Florida parasailing accident that injured Indiana teens

Sidney Good and Alexis Fairchild were seriously hurt in the 2013 accident.
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A settlement has been reached in a suit over a 2013 parasailing accident that seriously injured two Indiana teens.

Sidney Good and Alexis Fairchild were both 17 when their parasail broke loose from a motorboat in Panama City, Florida in July 2013. High winds carried the girls high into the air, into a hotel balcony before dropping them hard on top of several parked cars.

Attorneys for both families say the settlement is confidential, but the amount is equal for both girls.

The defendants in the suit include the parasailing company, the rental company, the tow rope manufacturer and the wholesaler of the tow rope. The condominium where the girls were staying is also part of the settlement.

There have been smaller suits settled along the way, but this suit against Treasure Island Resort is the biggest financially because it's the company with the deepest pockets.

An attorney representing one of the girls characterized the money obtained as an amount that will help keep the girls secure for the rest of their lives, although the other attorney says it's not a windfall, as the teens face a lifetime of challenges due to injuries sustained in the accident.

Alexis says she remembers everything, and videotape captured the horrifying moments when the parasail carrying her and Sidney broke free.

"I saw the video and I was like, 'That's not me'," said Sidney.

The 17-year-olds were swept away in strong winds topping 31 miles an hour as a storm moved in.

"One of the crew members jokingly said, 'you aren't afraid of a little lightning, are you?' And he put his rain coat on," said Wes Pittman, Sidney Good's attorney.

"I remember everything up until hitting the building and then landing," said Alexis.

On the way down, they hit power lines and crashed in a parking lot. Both girls suffered critical brain injuries from the fall, and to this day face ongoing medical challenges and pain.

Sidney's family filed suit and her father Eric Good learned Monday night there was a settlement.

"The girls are taken care of, as well as money that can take care of them and they have reasonable futures ahead of them," said Wes Pittman, attorney.

Sidney is in cosmetology school and still has medical challenges. Her doctor explained she has very narrow tunnel vision and double vision that is offset - meaning she sees one image dropped below the other. Surgery has failed to correct it.

"I am a little bit angry, but then when I do get angry, I have to think that I am walking, I'm talking, I am alive... because I'm not supposed to be," Sidney said.

Alexis is attending Ivy Tech in Fort Wayne. Her mother says she is in constant pain, but sees some positives in the journey, including new regulations for the parasailing industry in Florida. Alexis would like to someday become a physical therapist.

"I'm getting closer every day," Alexis said. "I have a brain injury, so, I mean, things are a little off sometimes; people walk up to me, they are like, 'How are you?' and I'm like, 'Do I know you? What do you mean? What's happening with that?' But for the most part, everything is good."

"It's unfortunate that she has to be in pain everyday," Angie Fairchild said of her daughter, Alexis. "Nothing is going to be over for her."

"This is not a windfall for Alexis. This is to take care of her basic needs into the future," said Debi Chalik, an attorney who is representing the Fairchilds. "This is not a lottery, we are going to stretch this as long as we can to take care of her basic needs."

The payout also served notice to other beachfront properties.

"Other resorts now, according to what I know, are sitting up and taking notice of this and they are going to be much more attune to their guest safety," added Pittman.

Also, because of this incident, the girls lobbied to change Florida law. Now, Florida parasailing companies must have basic insurance and high wind restrictions. One of the problems in this case was the girls were too close to shore to land back in the water. They pushed for a "distance from shore" restriction, but that failed to pass.

So for your Spring Break, realize that resorts may be more diligent, but recommended safety precautions for parasailing are still not in force.