A speedboat guiding parasailers up and down the beach is as common a sight in Florida as the fishing boats that patrol the coastal waters. Unfortunately, the fish in the ocean enjoy many more protections than the people who climb aboard one of Florida’s more than 100 unregulated parasailing vessels.
Parasailing – a popular tourist activity throughout the state – is meant to be a safe adventure for the everyday thrill seeker. In reality, Florida’s lack of regulation on the sport endangers thousands of residents and visitors each year, most of whom have no idea that the state does nothing to oversee the activity.
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In the past 12 years, at least 20 parasailing accidents have resulted in more than 18 injuries and 6 deaths in the state. A severe accident this week in Panama City highlights the continuing safety concerns. In this most recent incident, two teen girls were parasailing when the parachute detached from the boat during a storm. The victims were sent careening into a building and later landed in a parking lot atop a car. Authorities have not yet commented on the extent of the young victims’ injuries.
Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys Chalik & Chalik, are well versed in the under-reported dangers of Florida’s parasailing industry. The firm has represented half a dozen victims of parasailing accidents and has been an outspoken leader in efforts to regulate the industry.
In fact, the firm’s petition to support the Amber May Law was established in honor of 15-year-old Amber May White, who died in a parasailing accident in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 2007.
“We have represented families who have had family members break bones, suffer significant scarring, and even those who have lost family members in parasailing mishaps,” said attorney Jason B. Chalik.
A 2012 New York Times story exposed the lack of regulation in the wake of the death of a 28-year-old woman off the coast of Pompano Beach. This May, the Sun Sentinel published an article that took a critical look at the Florida Legislature’s Commerce and Tourism committee’s failure to consider a bill that would have instituted basic protective measures, such as requiring operators to carry insurance and forbidding operation during inclement weather.
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“Our law firm has tried for years to get the State of Florida to enact basic minimum standards for this dangerous activity,” Mr. Chalik said. “Thus far, the legislature has failed us in not acting. There are no insurance requirements. No requirements for training. No requirements for the inspection of the parachute, rope, or harness. Operators don’t even have to have a weather radio to warn of a change in conditions.”
Chalik & Chalik – through its online petition for the Amber May Law and other public advocacy work – will continue to push for better consumer safety measures in Florida.
“When will Tallahassee wake up and realize that not all regulation is bad regulation? Tourism is vital to Florida,” Mr. Chalik said. “Tourists need to know that all reasonable measures have been taken to ensure they are safe while visiting our great state.”
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