If any of us have been to a resort or beach location, we can’t help but feel drawn to watch or participate in parasailing. For most participants, parasailing is a once in a lifetime event that remains a cherished happy memory. Sadly, for hundreds of people each year parasailing has resulted in accidents causing severe injury, trauma and even death. Parasailing injuries tend to include traumatic brain injury, contusions, and broken bones.
Surprisingly parasailing safety standards, even in the United States, are not well regulated. Parasailing safety standards abroad are nearly non-existent. Additionally, regulations regarding the equipment and/or the paragliding operators remain largely unregulated. This had led to each parasailing business operator to set up their own standards of safety.
Of the parasailing accidents that have occurred in the United States alone, most of the reported accidents involved the body harness. The body harness is strapped on in such a way that it is a useful ally when above water keeping the person firmly attached to the parasail. However, drownings, choking and other injuries can occur once the person hits the water. The harness which keeps the person attached to the parasail is very difficult to remove while in the water. This is especially so if the victim is confused or has just suffered a severe impact to the body or head or who experienced an expected crash into the ocean. The Parasail Safety Council itself pleads for parasail operators to change the current use of the body harness used by most parasail operators to a safer device known as the gondola.
Overuse of parasailing equipment has led some of the harnesses and/or ropes to become frayed or otherwise weaken. This has resulted in the drop of a participant from a high altitude and at a high speed. Additionally, the rope, harnesses and other equipment used may not only be overused but the equipment loses integrity due to the daily exposure to sunrays and salt water. While the most common culprit in parasailing accidents are related to the body harness and/or rope used, other equipment that can prove faulty include maintenance issues with the boat being used to tow the participants, and/or may be due to the bolts, latches, hitches, or the parachute/parasail used. The manner in which the operator drives the boat may also play a role in an accident. Weather may also be a contributing factor in a parasail/parachute accident.
Other parasailing accidents have occurred when boat operators have allowed the participants to fly to close to nearby buildings. Parasailing accidents have also had tragic results when the parasailing operators misjudge the winds causing the participant to veer off the planned course. A highly publicized collision that put two high school girls in critical condition occurred in Florida when the operators misjudged the winds causing the girls to collide into nearby buildings.
The Parasail Safety Council believes that in the last 30 years approximately 130 million parasailing adventures have been had using a body harness attached to a parasail. Of those 130 million trips, approximately 1,240 participants suffered minor injuries and 429 participants suffered severe injuries. According to their statistics, 73 of the participants during this 30 year period sustained trauma resulting in immediate death. Of the 73 deaths, over 58 of these fatalities were attributed to the inability to remove themselves from the harness. Approximately 10 of the fatalities were attributed to other equipment failure and 5 of the deaths remain unaccounted for.
I’m Ed Smith of the Edward A Smith Law Offices and have handled serious injury claims and wrongful death claims for thirty years. If you or a loved one has been a victim of a parasailing or parachute accident or other tourist injury, please contact one of our experienced attorney at 800-404-5400. Please feel free to look at our track record of success. A consultation with our office does not require any obligation on your part. If you do choose us as your attorney we promise that we will never take a fee unless we win your case. I encourage everyone to look at what past clients are say about their experiences with any potential law firm. I encourage you to do the same with my office. Reviews can be found on Google, Yelp and Avvo.