The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released the results of an investigation into parasailing safety, saying that the industry is mostly unregulated and that many accidents result from faulty equipment or human error. The report has stirred up a new round of fears about parasailing, fueled by recent accidents—but even without official regulation, unsafe operators don’t get off the hook.
An estimated 3-5 million people parasail every year, many of them in Florida. The sport involves towing a large parachute behind a moving boat. The parachute rises up into the air due to the breeze, carrying one or more passengers hung from a harness underneath it. Done properly, a parasailing excursion can be an amazing experience and completely safe.
The vast majority of parasailing participants, including first-time tourists, ascends and descends safely. But the sport has loomed large in the public eye recently because of high-profile accidents. Two years ago a woman fell 450 feet to her death when her harness detached in the air. A year after that, a two girls were caught on video when their parasail ran away with them, eventually hitting a high-rise and leaving them seriously injured. If their towline hadn’t snapped, they would never have been in danger.
Both of those accidents involved equipment failure, and the NTSB says that’s not uncommon. Parasailing operators are not required to have any credentials or a minimum amount off experience. And as with any tourist attraction, there is a natural tension between the need to maintain equipment and the desire to keep costs down. Without safety regulations in place, operators may use harnesses long after they should be retired or towlines that are heavily worn and frayed.
But the lack of regulations does not mean that operators don’t face any legal consequences for putting customers at risk. Even without formal regulations, the use of frayed or worn equipment in such a risky sport constitutes negligence—in other words, an unsafe level of carelessness. That makes unsafe operators legally liable for the costs of any accidents they cause and for heavy punitive costs as well.
Unfortunately, that’s little consolation to those who are injured in a fall or lose a loved one to parasailing. While using unsafe equipment is, in theory, worse for the bottom line than just keeping it maintained, many operators don’t see it that way or don’t think an accident is likely. Without inspections and legal standards, they’re unlikely to change their ways.
If you or a loved one is injured in parasailing or any water sport, you do have options for compensation. Contact the injury lawyers of Steinger, Iscoe and Greene for a free consultation today.