Vacationers and thrill-seekers know that Florida, with its seemingly endless coastline, is the perfect location for parasailing. Summer is when the activity really takes off.
While it can be an amazing experience, the problem, as noted by a special investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is that it is largely unregulated. In fact, serious parasailing accidents are mostly the result of faulty equipment.
It’s estimated that each year, approximately 5 million people across the U.S. participate in parasailing. The safety of each of these trips is dependent almost solely on the skill of the operator and the condition of the equipment, there are:
- No federal guidelines or regulations that set specific training or certification for parasailing operators;
- No federal mandate for inspection of parasailing equipment;
- No requirement that operators halt operations during unsafe weather.
The good news for Floridians is that there are state laws, which came about only in 2014, after a series of horrific parasailing accidents. The White-Miskell Act, named for two women killed in separate parasailing accidents, amended F.S. 327.02 and F.S.327.37 and created F.S. 327.375. The Act has three primary provisions:
- Requirement of owner of a vessel used in commercial parasailing maintain insurance;
- Requirement of commercial parasailing operator to have a valid license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard;
- Barring commercial parasailing unless certain equipment is on board and certain weather conditions are met. Weather logs must be kept and made available for inspection.
Unfortunately, not all parasailing companies heed these warnings. Many may want to
An afternoon of parasailing can be enjoyable, but it can quickly turn tragic if the operator is incompetent or the equipment is faulty.
One high-profile incident occurred in July 2013 in Panama City, where two 17-year-olds from Indiana were severely injured – in fact, almost died – when their parasail broke loose from a motorboat in high winds. The wind carried the girls through the air, tossing them into a hotel balcony and slamming them hard onto the tops of several parked cars.
It’s imperative that visitors and Florida residents alike choose a parasailing company that is licensed and well-established. Even this will not eliminate the risk, but it can reduce it. If you spot rusted metal, frayed straps or notice a failure of the staffers to answer basic questions, these could signal red flag warnings that this operation may not be in compliance with state statute.
Some of the serious injuries we have seen result form Florida parasailing accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries;
- Back injuries;
- Soft tissue damage;
- Broken bones.
The NTSB investigation resulted in six recommendations, which included:
- U.S. Coast Guard implementing a specialized license endorsement for commercial parasail operators;
- U.S. Coast Guard incorporating reference standards to the activity;
- The F.A.A. requesting U.S. Coast Guard assistance in enforcing existing regulations applicable to parasailing;
- The F.A.A. reviewing all existing regulations and ensuring they are consistently enforced nationally to reduce the chance of a mid-air collision;
- The F.A.A. changing its regulations to give parasail vessels the right-of-way over aircraft;
- The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators drafting a model act to serve as a framework for state-level legislation to reduce parasailing accident risk.
If you have been injured in a Florida parasailing accident, we can help.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Parasailing Safety, Special Investigation, 2014, National Transportation Safety Board
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