Boy who survived parasailing tragedy that killed brother, 13, home for Christmas

A teenage boy who was put in a coma for two weeks after a tragic parasailing accident that killed his brother and cousin in Greece was able to go home from hospital just in time for Christmas.

James Connelly, 15, was left clinging to life after plunging 400ft in the horrifying incident in which his parachute rope snapped in high winds, the Sunday Mirror reports.

He was tethered to brother Mikey, 13, and cousin Jessica Hayes, 15, who died when the trio crashed into the rocky coastline in Rhodes.

James was evacuated by air ambulance and spent the following two months fighting for life in John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

But this week the brave schoolboy was allowed home to spend the festive season with his parents, Philip and Sharon.

On Saturday night Jessica’s father, Tony Hayes, said: “As a family we have had a little Christmas present. James has been allowed to return home and will continue his rehabilitation from there.”

James suffered a broken knee and head injuries in the accident.

Tony, 38, added: “He has a long road ahead. His mum and dad have only had two nights at home in two months, they are exhausted. His rehabilitation is their number one focus.”

Tony’s world was torn apart by the accident on October 28 and he is suffering PTSD after having to identify his daughter’s body.

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He fears the trio were taken out on the trip despite bad weather as the parasailing firm sought to recoup losses from coronavirus.

Dad Tony, from Corby, Northants, wants justice and is waiting for a decision by Greek authorities on whether it was legal to allow three children to fly on a parachute.

He had gone away with his wife Kayleigh, 34, and their two children to celebrate the 65th birthday of Kayleigh’s father Phil.

They were joined by Kayleigh’s brother Phillip Connelly and his wife Sharon, the parents of James and Mikey.

Jessica, Mikey and James had played boules, cards and watched bands in the hotel. Jessica had told her parents it was “the best holiday she’d ever had”.

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They booked the €85 parasailing trip after seeing an advert on the hotel’s website.

Mikey had “always wanted” to try it and Tony waved them off at 12.30pm on the beach by their four star Lindos Princess Beach Hotel.

A storm began after the speedboat set off and it was seen chasing after the trio after the rope snapped and their chute veered toward the rocky coastline.

Kayleigh, who stayed on the beach, rang Tony to say: “The boat’s come back and they’re not on it. We’ve been told there’s been a terrible accident.”

Just after 5pm they heard Jessica and Mikey had died.

Boat operator Nikkos Mallios, 51, who runs Lindos Watersports Center, was arrested and bailed as prosecutors decide whether he should face manslaughter charges.

Jessica’s body was repatriated and it took six weeks to complete post mortems before they could conduct Covid-restricted funerals.

Tony said: “If Covid had stopped that holiday we wouldn’t be in this position. There are many ‘what ifs’.”

His legal team at Fletchers Solicitors is appealing for witnesses.

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