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Thursday, Dec 18, 2014
Editorials

Parasailing controls overdue

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It is encouraging to see legislation in both houses of the Florida Legislature to regulate parasailing, but lawmakers should have acted to ensure the safety of the pastime long ago.

Legislators killed past efforts to adopt parasailing safety rules, despite continued accidents.

As The Tampa Tribune staff reports, six people have died in parasailing accidents and at least 20 people have been seriously injured in Florida since 2000.

The overwhelming majority of people who parasail experience no more than a memorable thrill. But accidents are not uncommon. Parasail.org, a nonprofit online publication that focuses on parasailing safety, estimates there have been 1,240 minor injuries, 429 serious injuries and 73 deaths in the United States over the past 30 years.

Some of the accidents are horrifying.

In 2010, a 27-year-old Georgia woman was killed in Clearwater when the line attached to the boat broke. She was dragged ashore by the sail, crashing into several objects, including a volleyball net post.

Last summer, two teenage friends from Indiana were seriously injured in Panama City when their tow rope yanked loose from the boat. They were pulled into buildings and cars. One had to undergo facial reconstruction.

But despite such tragedies, lawmakers refused to impose safety standards out of a misguided aversion to regulations.

It is one thing to oppose meddlesome government rules that choke the marketplace.

But opposing sensible regulations needed to protect the public safety is foolish and irresponsible, particularly in a state that encourages tourists to enjoy our water-related activities.

Fortunately, Senate President Don Gaetz appeared to get serious about the issue after last summer’s Panama City accident. He asked parasailing operators to meet with Sen. Maria Sachs, a Democrat from Delray Beach who had futilely backed a regulatory bill last session.

Sachs and Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, a Deerfield Beach Democrat, are now sponsoring legislation that would require commercial parasail operators to have liability insurance of $1 million and a license from the U.S. Coast Guard. The measure would prohibit parasailing when sustained winds hit 20 mph, when visibility is limited or lightning is visible. It also would require new safety equipment.

The standards are not onerous, but should give tourists and locals more confidence about the safety of taking to the air — something that should help the parasail operators, not threaten them.

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