Parasailing is one of the most riveting ways to appreciate the unparalleled beauty of the Florida coastline. Gliding through the air, tethered to a sturdy vessel in a secure harness, gazing down from hundreds of feet above the water, parasailers look forward to breathtaking – and safe – adventure.
Unfortunately, too many parasailing companies cut corners or totally disregard the safety of their customers. That can render this popular beachside pastime a perilous ride.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our parasailing injury lawyers know well the devastating these accidents can cause. We also know human error is to blame more often than not. Those who recklessly or negligently put riders in harm’s way need to be held to account. Those whose lives have been forever altered deserve compensation.What is Parasailing?
Parasailing is an activity in which a person is towed behind a vehicle – usually a boat – while attached to a specially-designed harness and a canopy wing that looks similar to a parachute. Towed behind a vessel, riders usually ascend between 800 feet and 1,200 feet above the surface of the water.
Parasailing was invented in the early 1960s by a French engineer, and was initially marketed initially for training sport parachute enthusiasts and military pilots.
According to the Parasail Safety Council (PSC), recreational use of parasails began in 1969, when companies began to offer rides on tourist beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean. Sometimes sailors were towed by land vehicle, and other times, they launched from a platform. It wasn’t until 1973 that the “winchboat” was designed to serve as a motorized parasail platform and tow vessel to launch from the back of a boat.
The first winchboat accident happened in 1977, during a televised demonstration in St. Petersburg.
Since then, safety equipment and regulations have evolved, but the activity is still not without risk.Parasailing Laws and Regulations
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports 3-to-5 million people parasailing each year in the U.S. and its territories. However, as numerous media outlets have noted, the safety of each of these outlets is dependent on the individual skill of the parasail operator and the condition of the equipment – neither of which is operated by federal regulations or guidelines. There is no federal law that says parasail operators need to have certain training or certification, and there is no law requiring these operators to halt their rides when the weather isn’t safe for the activity.
The NTSB didn’t even begin monitoring parasailing accidents until 2009. In 2013, the NTSB reported 325 parasailing accidents in the U.S. and its territories. Of those, one-third occurred in Florida.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported that between 2001 and 2012, there were six deaths, 18 injuries and 19 accidents stemming from parasailing along Florida’s coast.Florida’s Parasailing Law
For years, state legislators tried in vain to regulate parasailing. Measures were introduced in 2007, 2010 and 2012. It wasn’t until two 17-year-old girls were seriously injured after their parasail cord snapped and they flew into a nearby condominium that a law was finally passed that went into effect in 2013.
Now, F.S. 327.02, also known as the “White-Miskell Act,” this ground-breaking measure, effective Oct. 1, 2014, requires:
- Operators to keep a weather log and can’t operate in certain weather conditions;
- Operators must have appropriate radio gear and monitor weather reports at sea;
- Operators must carry liability insurance;
- Operators must be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard.
A major part of the problem is that parasailing is largely unregulated, and many serious accidents are often caused by faulty equipment.
Some of the things that can go wrong include:
- Malfunction of equipment, such as harness, sail, towline or boat;
- Improper licensure of operator or company;
- Improperly-trained parasail company staff;
- Failure to create or comply with proper safety procedures in the event of an emergency;
- Failure to adequately monitor the parasail in the air;
- Failure to heed dangerous weather conditions or weather warnings;
- Operation of a parasail in dangerous proximity to beaches, structures or other vessels;
- Failure to adequately brief passengers on the perils of parasailing, safety and proper technique.
Complicating matters is the fact that many parasailing companies require participants to sign waivers of liability. Although such waivers may be upheld by the court, they are not invincible, and should be carefully studied by an experienced injury attorney familiar with tourist injury cases.
Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (888) 267-2728 or locally at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.