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Safety of Parasailing Questioned After Recent Accidents

Written by on Monday, September 10, 2012 at 4:50pm

A common activity for many travelers enjoying a beach-bound vacation is parasailing, an experience that allows people to glide over a body of water wearing just a parachute and a harness guided by a motorboat. The sport has become increasingly popular among vacationers, but has recently come under fire for it’s lack of regulations and safety concerns.

Five years ago, two sisters, ages 15 and 17, partook in what millions of other vacationers do every day. Amber May and Crystal White went parasailing along the coast of Pompano Beach, Florida only to encounter turbulent weather along their ride. As gusts of strong wind approached, witnesses heard the girls scream to get down, but the speedboat kept going. In an instant the tow-line snapped, causing the parachute to launch the girls onto the roof of a nearby hotel. Amber May, 15, died and Crystal is left with permanent brain damage from this horrific accident.

Shannon Kraus, the mother of Amber May and Crystal, believes that the accident resulted from pure negligence and that the operator of the speedboat was using substandard equipment because the rope snapped quickly and easily. Kraus sued the parasail operator and eventually reached an out of court settlement.

Just this last month, nearly five years to the day of Amber May and Crystal’s accident and incredibly close to Pompano Beach, yet another parasailing accident occurred. A 28-year old woman was parasailing alongside her husband, when she inexplicably slipped out of her harness and fell 150 feet to her death into the water below.

The Parasailing Safety Council estimates a total of 137 million parasailing rides over the last 30 years, stating that injuries are rare and fatalities are even rarer. Unfortunately for Kraus, that statistic offers little comfort. Since 1982 there have been 429 people reported injured from parasailing and 72 deaths in the United States, according to the Parasail Safety Council. Most of the deaths were due to drowning after landing in the water and becoming entangled in the ropes and parachutes. The council also declares that instances involving someone slipping out of the harness are incredibly rare.

Interestingly enough, there are no governmental regulations for safety inspections of parasailing equipment and mandatory requirements for maintenance and retirement of equipment do not exist. In Florida alone, there are 240 parasailing businesses in operation and now Kraus is calling for reform with state legislators to create a policy on parasailing regulations. However, in the past four years legislators have made no progress.

Similar to roller coaster accidents, injuries that happen while parasailing happen when victims least expect it, when they are spending time with loved ones and having fun.  According to ABC News:

Sometimes things can go wrong; sometimes — as happened to Amber May White — tragically wrong because of what her mother insists was a failure of equipment that no safety regulator had ever laid eyes on.

No matter what the injury is, it’s our job at Bentoff and Duber to determine where the fault lies.

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