The new report from the National Transportation Safety Board identified several safety concerns and urged the U.S. Coast Guard to implement a license requirement for parasailing operators. One industry group has been working with the Coast Guard and standards-setting groups to improve parasailing safety.
Anyone who spent part of the Fourth of July weekend parasailing might be interested to know that the National Transportation Safety Board last week declared the activity to be risky and largely unregulated—and that several states and water sports organizations are working with the Coast Guard to improve safety.
As part of a special investigation, the NTSB looked into eight parasailing accidents that resulted in eight deaths and five injuries. The report established several safety concerns, including parasailing operators who continued to operate in hazardous wind conditions, using inadequate equipment and compromised towlines.
“An afternoon of parasailing can have tragic results if something as simple as a weak towline, strong winds, or a worn harness causes a serious accident,” NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher A. Hart said in a statement. “It is crucial that operators are competent and aware of all the risks associated with parasailing.”
NTSB recommended that the U.S. Coast Guard implement a special license endorsement for parasail operators, and it issued six safety recommendations to the Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
“The number of accidents is relatively small considering the number of people who parasail every year in the United States,” Tracy Murrell, NTSB director of Marine Safety, told WINK News in Ft. Myers Beach, Florida. “The fact is when something goes wrong, it goes catastrophically wrong.”
Several states and organizations, including the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA), have been working to create greater parasailing safety requirements. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a law requiring parasailing operators to log weather conditions before embarking on a trip. The White-Miskell Act, named for two women who died in parasailing accidents, also forbids parasailing operations during severe weather, requires operators be licensed by the Coast Guard, and limits operations by airports.
For its part, WSIA has been working with the Coast Guard and standards organization ASTM International for the last four years to create national safety standards for parasailing, said Executive Director Larry Meddock.
He added that the group provides extensive resources for parasailing operators: “We provide best practices, safety videos, waivers, and we produce a parasail operators symposium once a year.”