Parasailing Accidents Continue to Increase, but What Will be Done to Protect Against Future Incidents?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Parasailing is an exciting experience for many, especially for beachgoers in South Florida. Both vacationers and resident beachgoers tend to opt for the thrill-seeking water activities that are offered throughout the state, but not very many of them stop to wonder how safe they will actually be while soaring through the air, tethered to a boat.

Each year, several parasailing accidents take place, and many go unaccounted for. According to the Parasail Safety Council, which tracks parasailing injuries and deaths nationwide, over 70 people have been killed in parasailing accidents and at least 1,600 have sustained injuries between 1982 and 2012. During that 30-year span, an estimated 150 million people went on parasail rides, placing themselves at risk for serious – if not fatal – injuries. The casualty rate is roughly one per 90,000 rides, but despite the evidence showing the dangers of parasailing activities, there are no state or federal regulations governing parasailing.

Florida, which is home to the largest number of parasail operators (roughly 120), does not have any inherent parasailing safety regulations in place. Despite efforts by activists or surviving victims who have been involved in parasailing accidents, the state has failed to enact laws that will govern parasailing operations. Shannon Kraus, the mother of two girls who were involved in a parasailing accident in 2007, is one of many who are both frustrated and appalled at the lack of regulatory action taken against parasailing operators. Kraus’ two girls were injured when their parasailing line broke during a storm and caused the girls to crash into a hotel in Pompano Beach. One of her daughters, 15-year-old Amber May White, died of her injuries, while her other daughter Crystal, then 16 years old, sustained severe head injuries.

“Nobody has listened to me from day No. 1,” said Kraus. “I’ve just been shoved aside. I’ve kind of been ignored and I’m pretty angry about that.”

Crystal White, who is now a mother herself, explains that no one really knows what dangers they are getting into when they sign up for a parasailing adventure.

“They just need to know that if they go up, and something bad happens, there’s nothing they can do about it, because there are no laws, or rules, or regulations,” she said.

Just five years after the Whites’ parasailing accident in the same beach, another life was taken early by a faulty parasailing harness. The victim, 28-year-old Kathleen Miskell, of Connecticut, died after falling roughly 150 feet into the ocean on Aug. 15. It took this death to prompt an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, which had never looked into a parasailing death before.

Mark McCulloh, who runs the Parasail Safety Council, explained only New Jersey and Virginia have regulations in place for parasailing. In Florida, state Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Democrat, said a proposed regulation would make sure parasailing equipment is inspected thoroughly and would restrict rides during dangerous weather conditions. The regulations would also require operators to buy insurance. Margolis said past efforts to impose parasailing safety restrictions have been met with opposition by Florida legislators and parasail operators.

“When you get onto anything that’s recreational, you assume that somebody’s inspected it and everything’s OK. And you can’t assume that,” she said.

Since there are no regulations in place, there is no one to oversee the parasailing operators and make sure their equipment is not compromised or that they are even experienced enough to operate a parasailing venue or boat. Hopefully the laws will change soon and the risk of sustaining a severe or fatal injury during what should be a fun activity will be diminished drastically. But until then, there is still something that can be done to protect victims’ rights. If you or someone you know has been hurt or fatally wounded in a parasailing accident, turn to our boating accident law firm immediately for assistance.

Parasailing accidents can be caused by a number of factors, including faulty equipment or even boating operator intoxication. Our parasailing accident lawyers will investigate the incident and work toward having those responsible held accountable for their actions. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and protect your rights.