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Advocates Call for Tighter Regulations for Parasailing Tours

Earlier this month, two seventeen-year-old girls were critically injured in a serious parasailing accident while vacationing in Panama City Beach, Florida. As the girls were flying high above the water side-by-side, under the same parachute, winds picked up as the weather began to change. Eventually, the rope that tethered the chute to the back of the boat broke under the stress of the wind. Having no way of controlling the chute, the girls were subject to the whim of the weather, which sent the seventeen-year-olds careening into the side of a condominium, then into some power lines, and finally crash-landing into a parked car .

Most of the girls’ ride of terror was caught on videotape a bystander’s cell-phone camera. The girls lived, but suffered severe injuries and spent nearly two weeks in the hospital. Both girls suffered severe lacerations and head injuries and will need to go through a rehabilitation program; one requires reconstructive surgery to repair her facial bones.

The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting an investigation and has found that both the weather and the boat’s proximity to the shore contributed to the parasailing accident. When the company sent the girls up in the air, they were 300 yards from shore, and a blanket of grey clouds could be seen covering the beach. The owner of the parasailing company said that the sudden change in weather conditions played a role in the accident.

This is not the first time Florida has seen a parasailing accident like this. Since 1998, thirty five people have been injured in parasailing accidents and six have died. Despite the potential dangers of parasailing, the activity remains mostly unregulated, by either the federal government or the State of Florida. For instance, each parasailing company is permitted to determine when it will cease operation due to weather. Do they wait until there is a storm, or pack up the chutes at the first sign of a strong breeze? They can also decide how far from shore to take riders. If those pushing for increased regulation get their way, these are the types of issues that will likely be addressed.

Parasailing has become a popular summer adventure for many. According to the Parasail Safety Council website, approximately three to five million people a year engage in the sport. The council estimates there are about 240 to 270 commercial parasail concessions operating over 650 boats during the summer months. It recommends that boat operators witness at least 400 launches and retrievals in the boat with an experienced instructor before taking control as the driver.

Legally speaking, parasailing companies in Jacksonville Beach and across the nation owe their customers what is called “duty of care.” This is basically an obligation not to do anything in a negligent manner that may cause injury or death to a customer. Sometimes, companies cut corners or take short cuts and the customer pays the price. In these instances, if the injured customer can show that the company failed to exercise its “duty of care,” there might be a legal cause of action.

If you or a family member have been injured in an accident due to the negligence of another, whether a person or a company, you might be entitled to monetary damages to compensate for your injury. Contact us to speak with an experienced accident attorney who can meet with you to discuss your case.